Blog Of Football Guesses: When AJ Green Speaks, The Bengals Should Listen

posted by Mo Egger, ESPN1530 -

The Blog Of Football Guesses is a weekly homage to a former Clear Channel iHeartMedia Director of Digital who once informed me, in all seriousness, that "football picks drive web traffic, especially if you toss in a picture of a cheerleader."  It's ideas like those that give people like me hope for the future.

AJ Green is not an overly demonstrative player, nor is he outspoken, and everything I've come to know about him while watching him become one of the truly great Bengals of all-time is that he's a team-first/me-much, much later guy.  So when a player of his stature with his background speaks, he's worth paying attention to.

AJ spoke after Thursday night's disaster against the Texans.

We are playing like shit right now,” Green said, not stopping there. "We got to find a way to get our playmakers the ball. That's it. It's a superstar-driven league. You are not going to win without them."

Mind you, those aren't the words of a guy who's always hunting attention, nor is it the lament of a selfish player simply looking to get his, and it definitely isn't a complaint coming from someone who's only happy when he's griping. These are the words of a respected star, one as important to this team's recent past anyone and one whose talents must be tapped into for the team to actually score a touchdown, much less achieve its full potential in the future. 

They are the words of a guy whose remaining prime years are being wasted in an offense that's as punchless as a boxing match between two men with no arms, and most importantly they are a fair, reasonable, and accurate assessment of the Bengals' plight and what his team needs to do to salvage its season.

They're words worth paying attention to.

I don't know if the Bengals fired Ken Zampese as a direct response to what AJ said last night - nine points in two games will put any offensive coordinator with no track record in jeopardy of losing his gig - although I do wonder if what AJ said publicly is a milder, sanitized, less nuanced version of what he's said to the people he works for and with, and even if the decision to replace Zampese with Bill Lazor was made independently of AJ's comments, you could hardly imagine AJ Green pleading behind closed doors for his offensive coordinator to get another chance.

But AJ's words should ring throughout Paul Brown Stadium, in the offices of the men who create the gameplan, throughout the locker room filled with players who aren't merely as good, in the room where quarterbacks work on their craft, and through the halls of upper management.  The Bengals aren't going to win of AJ Green isn't the main focal point of the offense, and they'll probably never reach the level of proficiency we once thought they were capable of if they don't go out of their way, regardless of what the opposition is doing, to get him the ball. 

And hopefully, AJ continues to speak up. In meetings. In the huddle. On the sideline. And when the situation calls for it, in public. Maybe AJ Green will be the squeaky wheel in an organization that needs a good greasing. Perhaps his statement made some people at PBS perk up.  Hopefully, they're words that have an impact.

ZAMPESE OUT. LAZOR IN.

I was crafting this likely award-winning entry when I saw the press release that the Bengals have changed offensive coordinators.  

This move almost felt like it had to happen, even for an organization that's reluctant to make sudden moves like this one.  The quarterback isn't going to change, even if you think (understandably so) that it should. Marvin is likely in place for the entire season. The output of the offense has been so putrid and the entire feel of the offense is so bland that there was almost no way they could've continued with the same guy calling plays.

That said, I am curious how different the offense will look. Can a shaky offensive line block better and can they scheme around the line's deficiencies?  Will the deployment of the running backs look different? Can they create the kind of mismatches a few of us dreamed of when this year's draft was complete? Can Andy Dalton be coached back into the kind of quarterback we watched two years ago and how can a system he tweaked that takes advantage of his attributes while almost hiding his flaws? Can a new mindset permeate through the entire unit, emphasizing aggressiveness and identity?  

And will Bill Lazor make sure that, especially in the game's most critical moments, that AJ Green get the ball in his hands?

Asking these questions beats wondering how the Bengals offense will improve with Ken Zampese in charge. 

THERE ARE OTHER GAMES. SOME OF WHICH ACTUALLY INVOLVE BOTH TEAMS SCORING TOUCHDOWNS.

I had the Bengals winning outright (lol), but I did have Houston covering (even with 846 guys on IR, getting six points against Cincinnati was too hard to pass up), and even if I did want the home team to prevail, I protected myself from having an awful night by taking the under and betting that Dalton would throw for less than 225 (he ended with 224). I realize you don't care. The point is, I'm off to a decent 10-6 start this season. Here we go....

Carolina (-7) over Buffalo. Christian McCaffrey will be the difference.

Tennessee (-3) over Jacksonville. My whole "The Titans are this year's Raiders" thing from last week is on thin ice.

New Orleans (+7) over New England.  The Patriots, 42-6 following a loss since the beginning of 2003, aren't starting 0-2, but this week the Saints will remember they have Adrien Peterson, and keep it close.

Minnesota (+6) over Pittsburgh. I remain staunchly in the corner of "the Steelers offense, while capable of exploding, isn't as great as its made out to be." Of course, I root for a team that hasn't scored a touchdown in two weeks, so maybe I'm just bitter. OK, I am bitter. There's no maybe. I like Miker Zimmer's defense.

Kansas City (-6) over Philadelphia. I was gonna try to avoid falling into the trap of being oversold on the Chiefs, and I was gonna remind myself that Eric Berry is finished for the season, then I reminded myself that the Chiefs were 12-4 last season, and were one of my Super Bowl 52 picks if I had any imagination last week. Andy Reid gets his revenge, if that's what he's actually out for. 

Arizona (-7.5) over Indianapolis. A week ago at this time, I was the proud fantasy owner of David Johnson.

Chicago (+7) over Tampa Bay. The Mike Glennon Bowl is a thing, apparently.

Cleveland (+9) over Baltimore. The question I'm asked most often when people find out where I work is "what's Tracy Jones really like?" There's a part of me that hates hearing that question because it infers that the person asking it isn't listening to my dopey little radio show from 3:00 until 6:00, but I still answer, usually about talking about working with Tracy when I first started in the business.

I began working for iHeartMedia Clear Channel Jacor late in 1997 as a part-time board operator. One of my first regular gigs was running the weekend Extra Innings shows, which were hosted by Tracy. I, of course, remembered him as a player, and being not that far removed from being a nerdy young baseball fan (I was 20 in 1997), I was a little starstruck, even if Tracy was anything but a star as a ballplayer.

Anyway, Tracy was great.  He'd often get off the air and get a beer at Longworth's, across the street from the radio station (it was located in Mt.. Adams at the time), and he'd always invited me, and even worked his magic to get served when I was still underage.  More importantly, he was the first host to act like my opinion mattered, seeking my input, and allowing me to chime in with suggestions. And he'd tell great stories about players and teams I grew up watching. Even as someone relatively new to the business himself, he was encouraging and helpful to a complete newbie like me, and years later, when I started hosting shows myself, he always offered to make himself available if I needed someone to talk baseball, something he was willing to do even when we were on the air simultaneously.

That's what Tracy Jones is like.

Oakland (-14) over the Jets. Somehow, this number seems low.

Miami (+3.5) over the Chargers. New city. Same Chargers.

San Francisco (+14) over Seattle. Waiting for the Seahawks to look like the Seahawks again.

Dallas (-3) over Denver. The Cowboys didn't have a three and out last week. Denver has been the best in the league at forcing three and outs since the beginning of last year.  The intrigue is incredible.

Rams (-3) over Washington. Jared Goff, baby!

Atlanta (-3) over Green Bay. I remember being so psyched for last year's NFC Championship Game.

Detroit (+3) over the Giants. I'm flying to New York this weekend - with a four month-old, which will be fun for everyone. My brother is getting married, which is great. The wedding is at 4pm on an NFL Sunday, which is questionable decision-making by everyone.

NFL FAN FIGHT OF THE WEEK

The nuance of the debate about the name "Redskins" was surely a factor here.

CINCINNATI v. MIAMI

An insanely busy schedule, and some travel hiccups last weekend kept me from spending any time on last week's trip to Ann Arbor and how UC played against Michigan.

1) Ann Arbor is great.

2) The Big House is my favorite place that I've seen to watch college football.

3) The UC defense was damn impressive, and is 434838 times in better physical condition than it was last year.

4) Hayden Moore, man.

The recent series between the Bearcats and Redhawks has been lopsided. The games themselves, recently, have not.  This leads to a nagging belief that maybe Miami is due for a rare win the Battle for the Victory Bell, which hasn't been kept in Oxford since 2005 - before UC had even played a conference game as a member of the Big East. The game is at Yager, the Redhawks are favored (by 5!), etc. It's time. Maybe.

The trajectory of the season seems to hinge on this game for the Bearcats, who will be underdogs next week at Navy. Win this week, and there's a lot of reason to think that they can get to six wins.  Lose in Oxford, and the math gets tough.

I have a bad feeling about this game, in part because it feels like MU is overdue for a win, in part because I wonder about the letdown factor of playing Michigan, in part because I don't want to get too excited about what UC's D did last Saturday, in part because I'm worried about Mike Boone's health, and in part because Moore's play at QB has been less than inspiring. 

A Bearcat win wouldn't shock me.  A Bearcat win would make me happy.  A Redhawk win is what I'll guess.

Redhawks 21 Bearcats 17 (Cincinnati +5)

HIGH SCHOOL YEARBOOK

Ohio State 35 Army 11 (Army +31.5)

South Carolina 20 Kentucky 17 (UK +35)

Dayton 103 Duquesne 10

Otterbein 35 Wilmington 34

Thomas More 44 Washington & Jefferson 3

Blufton 23 Mt. St. Joseph 17 (OT)

Thank you to James Brooks.  Not the former Bengal, the former colleague of mine.  Enjoy the 1983 Bengals.

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Mo Egger

Mo Egger

Mo Egger delivers his unique take on sports on Cincinnati's ESPN 1530! Read more

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