Joe Burrow will fix Bengals, NFL must support minority communities and more

Joe Burrow is exactly the type of personality the Cincinnati Bengals need to turn things around.

For most of their existence, the. Cincinnati Bengals have been an afterthought.

Since their inception in 1968, the Bengals have twice reached the Super Bowl. Every other season has fallen short of the conference championship game. Cincinnati is currently dealing with the longest draught between playoff victories, dating back to the 1990 season.

Enter Joe Burrow.

In April, the Bengals selected Burrow with the first-overall pick out of LSU. The Ohio native was a revelation last year un Baton Rouge, leading the Tigers to a national championship after barely registering on the college football radar before 2019. All told, the Heisman Trophy winner threw 60 touchdowns and for better than 6,000 yards in his tour de force.

Now, Burrow has the NFL’s ultimate test. Fill Paul Brown Stadium with optimism. There are three early signals that Burrow is the man for the job.

1) Wearing “Burreaux” across the back of his LSU jersey on Senior Night.

When Burrow ran into Tiger Stadium on Nov. 30, his nameplate was an homage to the French heritage of Louisiana. It was poignant, but more telling, it was thoughtful. Burrow understood the moment. He realized his personal gravity. He was a leader in all senses before demolishing Texas A&M by a 50-7 score.

After the game, Burrow told ESPN reporter Hollie Rowe the following:

“That was my idea. I kind of wanted to do something to give a little tribute to this state and this university that has been so good to me.”

2) Handling criticism during the draft process 

On the first day of February’s NFL Scouting Combine, there was talk about Burrow’s hand size. Typically, personnel men worry about a quarterback if their hands measure below nine inches. Burrow came in at exactly nine inches.

Predictably, this became a talking point. The youngster wasted no time weighing in.

It’s a little joke — no pun intended — but it’s smart. It’s diffusing. If Burrow gets defensive, it’s a mushrooming story. After this tweet? It immediately went away.

3) Burrow shows world awareness

Forget your politics for a moment. Just consider the awareness.

Over the weekend, Burrow tweeted the following about the black community needing support in this moment. It was 27 words, but it packed a punch. It was thoughtful, it showed insight and it showed intellect.

You know what else it showed? The willingness to be out front. Burrow is going to have all eyes on him this season. He’s the face of a franchise desperate for success and someone to put on billboards. Burrow is expected to deliver on the field and in every business sense.

It’s early. Burrow has yet to take a snap with stripes. We must understand that.

Still, the early returns are damn impressive. We know the on-field talent is elite. It appears the off-field traits are as well.

Power rankings

Top 10 team nicknames of all time

1. The Steel Curtain – 1970 Steelers defensive line
2. Monsters of the Midway – Various Chicago Bears defenses
3. The Greatest Show on Turf – 1999 St. Louis Rams offense
4. The Legion of Boom- 2010s Seattle Seahawks secondary
5. The Sack Exchange – 1980s New York Jets defensive line
6. Air Coryell – 1980s San Diego Chargers offense
7. Doomsday – 1970s Dallas Cowboys defense
8. The Hogs – 1980s Washington Redskins offensive line
9. Purple People Eaters – 1960/70s Minnesota Vikings defensive line
10. No Name Defense – 1970s Miami Dolphins defense


“Tim is going to kill it. Tim is going to do great. We’re already on a great start. We built a great relationship starting last year. I’m looking forward to it.”

– Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson on offensive coordinator Tim Kelly

Kelly is taking over play-calling duties from beleaguered head coach Bill O’Brien, and it may prove a formidable challenge. The Texans lost three-time All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins and 1,000-yard running back Carlos Hyde off last year’s roster.

Essentially, Houston is a Will Fuller injury away from Randall Cobb being the top option.

In a division with the Tennessee Titans and improved Indianapolis Colts, the Texans can’t slip much without becoming an afterthought in the AFC South race.


Random stat

In 10 years with the Detroit Lions, Barry Sanders never rushed for less than 1,100 yards in a season.

Info learned this week

1. NFL statement on George Floyd, protests is only a decent start

The NFL released a statement on Saturday from commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledging the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery along with the resulting protests.

It’s positive the league is reacting to the anger and rage coming from the nation as a result of this horrid violence. However, if the NFL wants to actually be a leader and agent of change, it must do far more.

Goodell should be looking into recognized organizations which champion minorities both in sports and outside the athletic arena. He should be finding ways for the NFL to uplift the disenfranchised and begin educating those in the league office on which steps can be taken to help better understand the plight of communities long forgotten by mainstream America.

For the NFL and the country as a whole, this is an opportunity to make real, positive changes.

A statement isn’t going to cut it.

2. Chiefs, Chris Jones have long known the real number

On Friday, reporters emerged centering on star defensive tackle Chris Jones and his contract impasse with the Kansas City Chiefs. Jones, who was given the franchise tag in February, has yet to sign it while waiting for a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline.

According to multiple sources, the two sides talked occasionally lsat offseason about an extension without much traction, with the issue largely being Jones having one more (cheap) year on his rookie deal.

Ultimately, Kansas City general manager Brett Veach and Jones’ representation both know the figure which will get this matter squared away. Jones must be the second-highest paid player at his position, coming in behind Aaron Donald. Donald signed a six-year, $135 million extension including $87 million guaranteed in 2018 with the Rams.

As for Jones, sources tell FanSided the numbers sought by Jones last summer were similar to Frank Clark’s deal. Clark came over in a trade last offseason from the Seahawks and was immediately given a five-year, $105 million deal with $63.5 million guaranteed. These figures would slide Jones directly behind Donald among defensive tackles and pay him as the elite pass-rusher he is.

Stay tuned.

3. Onside kick rules gets tabled by NFL owners

Ultimately, the 32 NFL owners weren’t ready for 4th and 15.

The league decided to table the Philadelphia Eagles’ proposal of allowing teams a maximum of two opportunities per game to attempt a 4th and 15 from their own 25-year-line in lieu of a kickoff.

The play would have been thrilling, but some believe it gives teams with a star quarterback too great an advantage. Of course, teams with great signal-callers are likely leading more often and won’t need this rule change as much, so perhaps teams with lesser quarterbacks should have taken a chance and been strident in getting the proposal to a vote.

However, the league did approve a few rule changes. Clubs can now bring three players back from Injured Reserve per season. Additionally, defenseless returners were afforded more protection, making it illegal to hit the ballcarrier before he can expect a hit.

4. Dee Ford knows he’s essentially on a contract year with 49ers

Remember when Dee Ford signed a five-year, $85.5 million deal with the San Francisco 49ers? Well, the details put the edge-rusher on what amounts to a series of one-year deals.

If the 49ers cut Ford after this season, they eat $9.6 million over the next three seasons while saving $45.2 million. Not a tough choice if the production isn’t there.

After playing fewer than half the defense’s snaps a year ago due to lingering injuries, Ford got his knee cleaned up this offseason, per NBC Sports. Ford is clearly aware another season of snap counts and missed action — he missed five games in 2019 — might have him looking for his third team in four seasons.

When healthy, Ford is one of the best pure pass-rushers in football. After totaling a career-high 13 sacks for the Chiefs in 2018, Ford was dealt to the 49ers in the offseason before notching 6.5 takedowns.

With an extension looming for All-Pro tight end George Kittle, Ford’s contract could be shed soon if his production doesn’t pick up.

5. YouTube is an NFL treasure trove

Alright, so it was a slow week in the league if we’re sticking strictly to football. But here’s something I’ve been enjoying throughout the “work from home” period of 2020: classic NFL on YouTube.

I’m 31 years old, and while I consider myself very well-read on the history of the sport, it’s fun to watch a 1982 playoff game between the Steelers and Chargers. Even though I’m aware of the result, it’s fun to see the old graphics, the former greats and even hear a bygone announcer such as Dick Enberg. Great stuff.

If you’re looking for something to fill a few hours with, I suggest going on YouTube and looking up some old NFL playoff games. Tons to choose from.

Oh, and while we’re here … the mid-’90s theme for NBC is incredibly underrated. And the early-’90s CBS one? A damn classic.

History lesson

From 1954-58, the New York Giants had both Tom Landry (defense) and Vince Lombardi (offense) on staff as coordinators under head coach Jim Lee Howell. In a cruel twist of fate for New Yorkers, neither ended up becoming the head coach of Big Blue.

Lombardi left following the ’58 season for the Green Bay Packers — a job Giants owner Wellington Mara attempted to lure him away from in the coming years. Landry left after ’59 for the Cowboys, an expansion team created to help drive the American Football League out of business.

During Landry’s 30-year run in Dallas, the Giants went through seven head coaches.

Parting shot

The NFC South could go a million different directions in 2020.

Most believe the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to be the favorites, and rightfully so. Both have future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Drew Brees and Tom Brady, respectively.

However, Brees is 41 years old. Brady is 42. Each is declining at a noticeable rate. One, or both, could fall off considerably this season.

Then there’s the Atlanta Falcons. After being ravaged by injury and watching the defense play to league-worst performances, changes were made. Head coach Dan Quinn turned the unit over to secondary coach (now coordinator) Raheem Morris at the midway point, and immediate dividends came in.

Under Morris, Atlanta allowed 60 fewer points and 12 less points per game, while tallying 21 sacks compared to the seven in the season’s first half.

If Atlanta can continue this defensive resurgence under Morris coupled with a healthy offense? Sleeper team.

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