A decade ago, the Bengals developed a habit of taking chances on guys who had a habit of getting in trouble off the field. The ensuing rash of incidents embarrassed the franchise, but it never cost them any key wins.
Today, the Bengals have cleaned up their act away from the gridiron. But the chippy tendencies of guys like linebacker Vontaze Burfict and cornerback Pacman Jones greased the skids for the team’s fifth consecutive playoff exit — and for the seventh postseason loss in the Marvin Lewis era, without a single playoff win.
It’s on the Bengals for employing guys like Burfict (who was out of control most of the second half) and Jones (who can periodically be counted on to do something stupid) and for failing to control them. As to the former, owner Mike Brown can blame himself; as to the latter, Brown should blame Lewis.
And so the question becomes, given the excruciating manner in which 30 yards of field position due to a blatant illegal hit from Burfict followed by a senseless dead-ball foul from Jones turned the first playoff win in 25 years into yet another one-and-done postseason, whether Brown will decide that 13 years is enough with Lewis.
Making the dilemma more intriguing for Brown is the reality that offensive coordinator Hue Jackson will now likely leave to become the head coach elsewhere. If Brown decides it’s time to entrust Jackson (whose players on offense did nothing to contribute to multiple embarrassments) with the head-coaching job before someone else does.
“If Marvin Lewis can’t control his players, then maybe Marvin shouldn’t be on the sidelines coaching that dreck,” former Bengals quarterback and CBS analyst Boomer Esiason said after the game.
At a minimum, the performance of the players coupled with the looming departure of Jackson gives Brown plenty to think about. He’d better think quickly; Jackson begins interviewing for jobs elsewhere on Sunday.