After a putrid loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals’ firings began in the coach’s room. While the roster has its shortcomings, the recent shake-up doesn’t address obvious staffing issues.
As the Dust Settles, Cincinnati Bengals Firings Seem to Miss the Mark
In the early hours of the NFL’s Black Monday for coaches, the Cincinnati Bengals stood by head coach Zac Taylor. The team’s owner and general manager, Mike Brown, released a statement announcing his confidence in Taylor moving forward. However, recent development revealing a number of other Cincinnati Bengals staff firings show that confidence isn’t booming inside the team’s front office.
A report late last week from Sports Illustrated‘s Elise Jesse revealed a slew of coaching cuts. Most notably, the team moves on from controversial offensive line coach Jim Turner after two bad seasons. Other firings include defensive line coach Nick Eason, wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell, and defensive assistant Gerald Chatman. Running backs coach Jemal Singleton also departs, filling the same role at the University of Kentucky. All those firing were issued before the Bengals took a walloping from the Baltimore Ravens, losing 38-3 on their home field in the season finale.
In his second season as the Bengals’ head coach, Taylor lead the team to a 4-11-1 record. In two years, Taylor owns a 6-25-1 record as the team’s lead man. As the team returns to the top five in the NFL Draft for a second consecutive year, the results haven’t been good enough. However, wins over the rival Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 15 and Houston Texans in Week 16 did enough to save the coach’s job. Further, the team encountered a slew of injuries to key players throughout both the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Two Good Bengals Assistants Lost in the Wreckage
Among the aforementioned departures, two staffers seem unjustly ousted. The team moved in the right direction on the offensive side this year. Particularly at their offensive skill positions, the Bengals were finding a lot of positivity. Thus, the firing of Bicknell and the departure of Singelton hurt this team and coaching staff. While the team will search for better coaching options, those losses could hurt some of the positive developments from this season.
Singleton heads to the University of Kentucky to work with their talented rushing core. It leaves a sizeable hole in the team’s coaching staff. Breakout performances in the running back room highlighted the team’s recent home win over the Steelers. The team rushed for 152 yards in the game and helped control the clock. Giovani Bernard ran for 83 yards and a touchdown on 25 attempts. Quarterback Ryan Finley ran for 45 yards and a touchdown on ten attempts. Samaje Perine ran for 14 yards on four attempts. The experimental nature of the attack showed the creativity and versatility amongst the team’s rushers.
As for the receivers, it’s been a hit-and-miss bunch, but the hits have been outstanding. Tee Higgins is rising as one of the league’s young stars after a great rookie season. Tyler Boyd is one of the best slot receivers in the league. Auden Tate looks like an emerging red zone menace. However, a big red mark hurt Bicknell, as he failed to make John Ross III even a mid-level contributor. In two seasons with Bicknell, Ross was targeted 63 times and only caught 30 of those for 523 yards and three touchdowns. His 2020 season ended after three games and a public airing of the grievances with the organization.
Retaining Lou Anarumo Among Cincinnati Bengals Firings An Illogical Move
While the offensive side of the ball had their struggles, the defense was a rocky group at best. According to Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings, the Bengals finished with the 27th overall defensive group in 2020 and the 30th overall group in 2019. Considering the growth expected from the group this season, that’s a disappointing metric. The team also spent a lot of money and draft assets this offseason to improve their run defense. In turn, they allowed the fourth-most rushing yards (2,368) in the league and second-most yards per rushing attempt (5.1).
The defense also failed to make many big plays for the second consecutive season. They finished sixth in turnovers, only creating 17 on the season. The group also couldn’t get to the quarterback despite having competent edge rushers in Carl Lawson and Sam Hubbard. They finished last in sacks with 17 and second-to-last in quarterback pressures with 102 on the season. Overall, it just wasn’t good enough from a group with some really good emerging talent. It makes justifying Lou Anarumo’s return pretty difficult for Taylor and the Bengals.
Players Still Support Zac Taylor
Regardless, there are key members of the team who still hold ample confidence in the 37-year-old head coach. Last month, a report revealed that Joe Burrow has his coach’s back and wants to continue his growth with Taylor. Bernard, a longtime member of the team and locker room leader, continues to provide effusive praise of the coach. Tyler Boyd is another key Bengal endorsing Taylor. Asked about Taylor in his 2020 exit interview, Boyd said, “He’s a players coach. He relates to everybody in different ways. He’s going to coach to your ability. He knows a lot. He knows so much and I trust in this offense and I feel we can be the best offense next year.” Hubbard, Xavier Su’a-Filo, and Logan Wilson are other key Bengals to endorse the team’s standing head coach.
Couldn’t be more excited about the future of our organization. We have a great foundation and great people at the top. Look forward to giving the fans what they deserve. Also hopefully that’s the last time I ever have to watch a game on tv🤟
— Joey Burrow (@JoeyB) January 4, 2021
With the support of his players and his front office, there seems to be a theme of internal confidence in Taylor. After the past two seasons and back-to-back finishes at the bottom of the AFC North, their supporters are tired of losing. Seemingly, so is coach Taylor. When asked about winning games in 2021, Zac Taylor said, “That’s my expectation. I’m tired of losing.” Heading into the offseason, the team needs additions to both its coaching staff and roster. Smart personnel moves in those departments could buck the losing trend. Seemingly, 2021 will be a year where Taylor needs to win games to prove he belongs in his current role.
Embed from Getty Images