This was originally published in The Athletic.
If you’re a Cincinnati Bengals fan, you might not want to read this, at least not for a few days.
I understand if you’d rather wallow in the kind of self-pity that Bengals fans have become so good at wallowing in. I can relate to not wanting to listen to someone else’s assurance that things aren’t quite as bad as they seem and that maybe, everything might actually be OK.
Still, I’m going to try my best to lift you out of the newest murk that this week’s Bengals news has us swimming in. Not so much because I believe that “cheer up, everything will be all right” notion, but because I don’t believe that Jonah Williams’ rookie season seemingly being over before even one game is the death blow to the 2019 season that some are making it out to be.
Don’t get me wrong, I can commiserate with the best of Bengals fans about the long, recent track record of first-round draft choices having their initial NFL campaigns either interrupted or destroyed. I can recite a list of bad things that have happened to the Bengals that might be as long as the list of bad things the Bengals have done to themselves. I understand the redundancy of this week’s news and the here-we-f—ing-go-again eye roll that you surely reacted with when you saw tweets like this one.
Yes, Paul. This was awful news. Awful for Jonah Williams. Awful for the Bengals.
And sure, awful for me, you and anyone else who’s endured decades’ worth of bad Bengals news as well as the accompanying unfulfilling on-field results but who still care enough to react emotionally when news like Williams’ season-ending surgery breaks.
I won’t deny how much Williams’ injury could affect the Bengals in 2019, given that improved offensive line play is imperative for a higher win total this season. Williams was not drafted to be a project lineman — one who does little more as a rookie than stand, watch and learn. The plan was for him to play instantly at arguably the line’s most important position. He was thrown in almost immediately as the starting left tackle, an absolute bear of a responsibility on its own, much less when you factor in that Williams was brought in with the idea he’d be a central figure in ending a three-season-long playoff drought.
But here’s my thing: However you felt about the Bengals’ chances this season before we found out about Williams’ busted labrum and subsequent surgery, do you now feel that much different?
To read more, go to The Athletic.