If Joe Burrow wants to play for the Bengals, why hasn’t he simply said so?

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At one point last month, quarterback Joe Burrow provided a broad, blanket assessment of his football future: “Whoever wants to pay me money to play the game of football, I’ll play for ’em, it doesn’t matter to me.” Later in the month, however, that changed in subtle yet critical fashion.

After former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer said publicly that the Bengals aren’t committed to winning Super Bowls and Burrow hired Carson’s younger brother to assist with draft preparation, Burrow said this to Dan Patrick: “You want to go No. 1. But you also want to go to a great organization that is committed to winning. Committed to winning Super Bowls.”

That’s a far cry from “it doesn’t matter to me.” And it’s likely not a coincidence that someone (i.e., Jordan or Carson Palmer) warned him about the Bengals.

The story bubbled up again this week, with Burrow offering a far from enthusiastic “if they select me, they select me” assessment of playing for the Bengals. His mother, Robin, tried to laugh off the notion that Joe doesn’t want to play for the Bengals by saying, “We have no idea where that comes from. It’s a story out there that someone has created that doesn’t have any substance — from our perspective at least.”

But they gave the story substance the moment Joe hired the brother of a former Bengals’ No. 1 overall pick whose experience showed him that the Bengals aren’t committed to winning Super Bowls, and when Burrow then revised his “it doesn’t matter to me” position regarding the team he wants to play for by saying, “[Y]ou also want to go to a great organization that is committed to winning. Committed to winning Super Bowls.”

Meanwhile, Burrow never has said that he wants to play for the Bengals. And that’s all he has to say to make this go away.

Consider the difference between these responses. Here’s option one.

Q: “Joe, do you want to play for the Cincinnati Bengals?”

A: “If they select me, they select me.”

Here’s option two.

Q: “Joe, do you want to play for the Cincinnati Bengals?”

A: “You bet your ass I do!”

Granted, he could be slightly less enthusiastic and still make the point that he wants the Bengals to pick him. Or he at least can say that he wants to be the No. 1 overall pick without the “you also want to go to a great organization that is committed to winning” caveat, which covers him in the event the Dolphins or someone else makes a trade up to the top spot.

Since adjusting his stance from “it doesn’t matter to me” to: (1) I want to be the top pick; and (2) I want the team that picks me to be a great organization that’s committed to winning, the notion that Burrow doesn’t want to go to the Bengals has intensified — especially since the brother of Burrow’s private quarterback coach strongly believes the Bengals aren’t committed to winning.

It’s really not that complicated. But some flat-out refuse to see what’s happening. And what’s happening is that, for now, Burrow is sending signals that he eventually may not want to play for the Bengals. Whether that becomes a full-blown Elway/Eli-style power play remains to be seen.

The fact that Burrow said Monday that he has leverage (few if any draft prospects ever say that) confirms that he’s considering his options. However, if the Bengals take him, his options are simple: (1) sign a four-year, fully-guaranteed contract worth more than $36 million; (2) refuse to sign with the Bengals in the hopes his rights are traded during or after the draft; or (3) sit out the full year and re-enter the draft — with no guarantee that he’d be the first pick again and no guarantee that the Bengals or some other team not committed to winning would refrain from drafting him.

For now, Burrow is opting for subtle in order to keep his options open for as long as possible. Even if he doesn’t want to play for the Bengals, his desire to not pass on being the first pick and getting more than $9 million per year for four years could be stronger.

Regardless, there’s clearly something that’s holding him back from being unequivocal about the Bengals. And it’s not very hard, based on the comments of Carson Palmer and others, to see what it is.

43 responses to “If Joe Burrow wants to play for the Bengals, why hasn’t he simply said so?

  1. It must be the NFL off-season. This story keeps popping up & it still means nothing. The media needs to give it a rest & just be patient like everyone else.

  2. Perhaps he doesn’t want to say so because of the off chance that the pick is traded. Or because he doesn’t need to. Either one.

  3. This is the media creating a story. Why even ask the question. He has to go wherever he’s drafted. So if he says he wants to go to Cincy, and his career gets destroyed because of it, you blame him. If he says he doesn’t and gets drafted there then you kill him for that.

  4. This is Fake News. Bengals have best record over last 9 years then any of the other teams picking 1st in the last 9 years. So come again with the media trying to talk him into pulling an Eli?

    The truth is they just don’t want to see him go to a team they don’t want to have to give media attention to. Nothing more. If he goes to the Dolphins (how many playoff appearances have they made in last decade?) then they’d be celebrating and applauding him.

  5. It would sound arrogant and still could be a team that trades up for him, why would he say that wants to go to the Bengals
    Maybe the Lions or Dolphins make an offer they can’t refuse, you never know

  6. Florio, get off it! You are so much wanting, hoping, wishing any team takes him other than your divisional rival Bengals. Pittsburgh is done! The rest of the AFC North has to deal with Jackson and Mayfield for years to come and YOU do not want Burrows to go to Cincinnati and make it a 3 headed monster against your steelers. Keep pushing this false narrative! Bengals have made it to the playoffs more than half of the NFL. Also, back in the day when Cincinnati wasn’t that good and took Palmer, I didn’t see Palmer wanting to hold out or pull an Eli!

  7. There’s over a month between the start of free agency and the draft. They have ample time to show Burrow that they care about winning. Trade Dalton for a mid round pick and spend his money on the O-line. Tag AJ, trade him and spend his money on O-line. Cut Kirkpatrick and spend his money on line backers. This team is 3 obvious moves away from being top 5 in cap space along with having the top pick on day 1 and 2. They can change the course of the franchise quickly.

  8. I’d go to any NFL city other than Cincy. And Buffalo but that doesn’t need to be mentioned. Who the hell wants to even go to Buffalo never mind live there.

  9. This lame narrative would have went somewhere if the Browns hadn’t gone 0-16 and 1-15 yet not received the negative press leading up to the Draft.

    The Bengals go to the playoffs 5 out of the last 9 years at a better clip then over half the league and the media shows why folks have grown to recognize and hate fake news.

  10. The Johnnie Football ESPN draft popped up on my YouTube list.

    They were obsessing every pick where he would go while a steady stream of future pro bowlers were being picked before him.

  11. All this fuss over a guy it 5 years to have 1 great season of college football.
    I guess it’s all about needs. Perfect timing for him.

  12. He’d be lying! Mike Brown is the worst owner in sports.

  13. I lived in Cincy during Boomer’s heyday. It’s a great football town. Burrow will go there and help put the Bengals back in the playoffs.

  14. He’s being pragmatic. He knows he doesn’t have a choice and it happens to be his hometown team. He probably has a lot of family and friends that are Bengals fans and would like to watch him play live.

  15. It’s simple. There is no good reason for him to say anything definitive right now. First, he doesn’t know what the Bengals’ plans are. Second, we haven’t hit the Combine yet. When he’s at the Combine he’ll have plenty of chances to talk to the Bengals and other teams and decide what he thinks based on, you know, actual first-hand information.

  16. Nobody ever unequivocally says they want to play for a certain team, because they don’t know for sure that team is going to draft them.

    I’ve never seen the media lobby for a person to pull an Elway or Eli like this.

    So strange.

  17. His responses have been just fine. No one in his right mind has ever said, “You bet your ass” to playing or working for the Bengals.

  18. You make a good point, but have neglected a key part to the story (maybe another post?)

    In short, Mike Brown.

    In medium, Mike Brown is a strange, non-conventional human being.

    In long, Mike Brown does not care what Burrow says or thinks. Burrow could come out and say “honestly, I hope the Bengals don’t take me” and Brown will still take him. Brown doesn’t like to be challenged. He can be very spiteful. He pushes back against his own interests if he feels pressured to do something. If Brown feels Burrow is the best QB prospect for the team, he will take him, and offer a “play for us, or sit out the year lol doesn’t bother me” position.

  19. I’m sure he’d love to be drafted by the New England Patriots but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Why should he have to come out and say he wants the Bengals to draft him? I’m sure he’ll be happy with whichever team drafts him but it’s unlikely to be his first choice.

  20. There have been 3 times that a top QB pick has tried to leverage to a different team: Elway, who had a legitimate baseball career to turn to; Eli, who found a perfect solution with the Chargers where each team needed a QB and the Giants preferred Eli enough to trade something for him with SD getting Rivers (again, a win-win for both teams); and Kyler Murray, another guy with a legit baseball option (he’d already received top-10 bonus money from baseball). That is not Burrow’s situation. The only -and I mean only – possible scenario where the Bengals don’t take him is if one of the other QB-needy teams (i.e., Miami and maybe Detroit) offer them a ridiculous package of picks, like Miami’s 3 1st rounders this year and perhaps one next year, in which case the Bengals would take the picks and then pick either Tua or Herbert. Otherwise, the Bengals are picking Burrow; all of these vague comments and weird revisionist history from Palmer (who the Bengals, incidentally, made the highest paid player in football history at one point) who now blames everything on Cincy’s lack of interest in winning. I’m getting exhausted.

  21. The reason he hasn’t said so is because I’ve advised him not to. I owe you no explanation and neither does he. But to assuage your childish insistence, I can tell you the reason – in part – is because he doesn’t have to. There’s nothing to be gained from embracing the Bengals before it’s time. This is so elementary I used to be surprised you didn’t understand.

  22. I’m thinking either there’s a chance he’ll end up with someone else due to a pick trade, or he’s negotiating a contract with the Bengals.

    Even if he avoid mentioning the Bengals at all, he could still stand to be a bit more enthusiastic. “I’ll work for whoever pays me” isn’t exactly inspirational-quote material.

  23. Of course he doesn’t want to play for the Bengals. He can’t say that, because he has to go where he gets drafted. But, you know damned well that no one in their right mind in his position would want to go there. The owner is a notorious tightwad, and it all starts at the top. The Bengals are probably the single worst option in the entire NFL. Name one team you would prefer less if you were in Burrow’s shoes.

  24. This is laughable. If I want to draft Burrow, I will draft Burrow. I, Mike Brown, may suck but I do not CARE what you think and I will do as I please. Mike Florio, Burrow will be a Bengal unless I say otherwise.

  25. smarter than you says:
    February 18, 2020 at 6:37 pm
    Palmer is a quitter and Housh has complained about every team he’s been on, why would he listen to those guys?


  26. rlhrocks says: “The owner is a notorious tightwad”

    Um, you do know there is something called a “salary cap” in the NFL, right? And teams aren’t allowed to spend below a certain amount, so being a “tightwad” is MEANINGLESS, especially when their payroll has been smack in the middle for the past 15 years…

  27. This is a ridiculous narrative created by the media to drive clicks. Burrow is smart to give it the attention it deserves…none.

  28. McCauley Burrow, like so many of these Manzeil types, coddled from Pop Warner to Pro are just big disappointments… Id avoid, they’re just too burnt out. The kid looks too off balanced mentally IMHO- and no I am not a Clinical Psychiatrist, although I play one in my mind

  29. end the bs Joe. publicly say whoever draft’s me No 1, i am going to do everything in
    my power to get us to the SB. And oh, thanks for the guaranteed 36 million along
    the 4 year trip.

  30. Ok so I do not know the rules here but why can’t Burrow just not enter the draft & become an UFA as a rookie QB & sign wherever he chooses? Now obviously he’d have to find a team that would basically treat him financially as the “true” #1 draft pick. But why not just tour as an Unrestricted Free Agent like Tom Brady is doing & take the best offer & best fit? Why waste 4-5 years in Cincinnati? I just don’t get it. DON’T ENTER THE DRAFT if you are the consensus #1 pick & you have that leverage to go where you want to go. Tell me he wouldn’t want to land in Indy, Pittsburgh, New England, Tampa, Chicago, I mean c’mon.

  31. Let’s be honest here, no player entering the draft wants to play for Cinncinati. Also as a player entering the draft every word you speak gets twisted to make a news article. What else the guy supposed to say? Of course he wants to go to a team who only needs a QB. Like the Patriots possibly, or sit a year behind Brady before a send off. Either way the guy seems humble and excited for the opportunity that so many now feel they are entitled to. Good luck Joe, enjoy it!

  32. They might not be reporting everything to the public. Just guessing. Both the Bengals and Burrow might feel like it doesn’t help them by making public statements. Just sayin.

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