By now, it should be clear that the Cincinnati Bengals are ALMOST there. The Super Bowl is within their grasp, but there is something that isn’t gelling correctly. Since the drafting of the duo of Andy Dalton and AJ Green, the Bengals have pulled off two winning seasons out of two, making the wild card playoff game but then going on to lose to the Houston Texans both years.
There is only so much quarterback blaming that people can do before they have to realize that the problem doesn’t lie with him alone. Each and every part of the team must take their portion of the blame of course, but there comes a time when we need to turn to offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and find out if he’s the right answer for the Bengals.
Gruden seems to be criticizing Dalton at the moment, saying that in order to succeed next season, he will need to improve every aspect of his game. His arm strength has been called into question the most. Last season, Dalton ranked near the bottom of the league in passes over 20 yards with 37 but tied strong-armed Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco in completions over 40 yards with 12.
Although Gruden is correct in this criticism of Dalton, in his third year, it’s time for Gruden to look internally too. It seems that his offense can only get them so far. At this point, he knows what he has to work with in terms of Dalton’s accuracy, arm strength as well as what works and doesn’t work for him in the playbook. Yet two years in a row, Gruden’s offensive scheme has not been able to take a game to the Texans. There’s nothing that stands out about Gruden’s offense to show that the Bengals have that something different that makes them a Super Bowl contender, yet the team pulls together and still makes it to the playoffs.
In order to succeed in 2013, Gruden will need to have used the offseason to get together with head coach Marvin Lewis and completely overhaul the offense. This includes taking out the plays that so clearly do not work for Dalton, and playing to his strengths like the shorter pass routes, strengthening the running offense and hopefully adding an ‘X Factor’ to the offense that we have not seen yet with the Bengals.
If you’ve not read many of the articles I’ve written recently, you won’t have seen that I’m convinced the key to the Bengals succeeding with a new style of offense is to draft tight end Tyler Eifert in round one of the NFL Draft this year and switch two a two tight end offensive system. Although I think that this would be a more obvious choice out of any when switching up the offense, nevertheless, Gruden will need to do something new with the offense before people who actually matter start questioning whether he’s the right choice or not.
Simon Greene – Cincinnati Bengals. Follow Simon on Twitter @simongreene88