|When I was little, my dad used to recycle an old quote from the 70s, where a coach referred to the Oakland Raiders as the "criminal element" in football. He always used to get a kick out of using that line, and even before I really knew much about any team outside of Cincinnati I already knew that the Raiders were criminals. Last decade, the Portland basketball team had a series of legal and drug-related run-ins that landed them the nickname the Portland "Jailblazers".
Fast-forward to now, and I see the same characterization happening with the Bengals. They seem to have had approximately 129 player arrests in the past year, to the point that now they're becoming another punch line. Instead of the "Bungals" jokes of the 90s, instead we're seeing any criminal activity starting to be referred to as Bengals-like.
My question is: is that warranted? Paul Daugherty, a Cincinnati journalist, pointed something out today that I thought was interesting. While Odell Thurman, who was recently suspended 4-games for violating the NFL drug policy, is a team cornerstone the other "offenders" of late: Chris Henry, Frostee Rucker, A.J. Nicholson, and Mathias Askew are all back-ups, fringe players, and/or rookies. They are becoming the face of the new "criminal element Bengals", but in reality they are only a very small part of the core of the actual football-playing Bengals.
When Marvin Lewis came in and cleaned shop, character was one of the main things he used to determine who to keep. He made guys like Rudy Johnson and Willie Anderson his cornerstones to build around. He cited character and leadership even more than talent for the reason that he chose Carson Palmer to be the franchise player. Even Chad Johnson's over-the-top antics are judged to be playful moreso than malicious, and are built on top of a player committed enough to sleep at the training facility so that he could keep working on his game.
And though some of the recent rookie picks may be questionable, the veteran free agents that have been brought in (Kevin Hardy, John Thornton, Bryan Robinson, Tory James. Dexter Jackson, Sam Adams) are all character guys known for their professionalism.
As a Bengal fan, I hope that they are able to do a better job moving forward in weeding out the trouble from the talent, because I really hate to see them on the verge of even more public humiliation. After 2 decades of futility, now that they're on the verge of success it'd be nice to get some good press for once...
Posted by Drez, the Concerned Professor at 7/27/2006 11:12:00 AM