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Keeping Up With The Jones'

Marvin Lewis is at it once again.

The man who has repeatedly given the benefit of the doubt to young professional athletes with “character issues,” has made it clear to all of Bengaldom that he couldn’t care less about traditional football wisdom. The Bengals head coach, fresh off his first NFL Coach of The Year award, stunned many last week by signing Matt Jones to a one-year contract, and agreeing to workout and consider the embattled Adam “PacMan” Jones.

Lewis’ actions, uncharacteristic of a head coach who has just taken a team to the playoffs, have sparked much debate throughout not only the Bengal community, but also the NFL community as a whole. Some experts have criticized the actions, while others seem simply confused given the success of this past season. Furthermore, it was obvious to the attentive fan that one major key to the Bengals 2009 success was the strength and resolve of a locker-room plagued with tragedy.

Given the inspired performances that followed the death of Vicki Zimmer, the Tsunami that personally affected multiple players, and the untimely death of a longtime teammate; the question becomes, why shake things up? The players were obviously united, obviously connected on a personal level, and obviously buying in to the systems being preached by the coaching staff. So why? Why threaten that intangible quality of togetherness that is so fragile at the professional level? Why disrupt a locker room that has the drive, has the talent, and now has the experience to make a real run in 2010?

Well, let me start by answering these questions with a question of my own…

Prior to this season, how many experts predicted that the Cincinnati Bengals would have such a resilient group of players in their locker room in 2009?

Answer: Zero.

Who predicted that this team would go from an abysmal 4-11 record in 2008, to an 11-5 record and a division-clinching playoff birth in 2009?

Answer: Nobody.

No one predicted that this team would win as many games as they did. No one predicted that this team would win the way that they did, with Carson Palmer rallying his troops to finish off Fourth Quarter drive after Fourth Quarter drive. Maybe Cincinnati has become a type of sanctuary for these highly talented, highly risky acquisitions. Maybe Lewis’ cool and calm demeanor is a perfect fit for the many outgoing personalities that fill the NFL, and already fill that Bengal locker room?

So, I say why not? Why not give these two young Jones’ a second (or third, or fourth, or fifth) chance? Think about Cedric Benson, Chris Henry, and goodness gracious think about Chad Ochocinco. If Marvin Lewis (and for that matter, Mike Brown) made a habit of listening to conventional wisdom, and taking the advice of zero-tolerance NFL figureheads, none of these players would have worn orange and black in 2009.

I say go for it. If these players can fill much needed vacancies on the roster, then why not give them another chance? Chances are, the Bengals will get great value for these two amazing talents. And if problems begin to arise, or if things simply do not work out, then let them go. Make it simple and cheap to cut ties if need be.

It is obvious that our receiving core needs help, and Matt Jones is a tall, athletic receiver who can stretch the field an open up things for The Ocho. If the last eight games of 2009 told us anything, it’s that the Bengals, and Carson Palmer in particular, really missed Chris Henry. Not because he caught 10 passes a game, but because he demanded respect from defenses and opened up space for Chad on the opposite side of the field.

And while the meteoric rise of the Bengal’s defense was nothing less than spectacular this past year, why not add another high-caliber DB to a group that is already immensely talented? J-Jo and Hall could sure use some veteran safety help over-the-top so they can focus on locking-down superstar receivers across the NFL.

I am excited about Matt Jones, and I am mildly excited about the possibility of "PacMan" Jones. Both of these guys have spent at least a year away from the comforts of the NFL; and we, as Bengal fans know that it is possible to reform young men with so-called “character issues.” So, if there is one place, and one man that is up to the task of giving these men another chance; I am confident that Marvin Lewis is that man, and that Cincinnati is that place.

The risk, if you really think about it, is not that high; not many people are expecting anything out of the two Jones'. The reward, however, could be great, and I am willing to take my chances.

Chris Eden

1 comment:

  1. The Bengals were 10-6 in 2009, not 11-5 as your article says.