Of all of the starts, stops, false-starts, and then stops that I've asked you to endure on this blog, at least when it's been dormant, it hasn't been because idiot corporate overlords tried force on me their opinions on what I should and shouldn't write about.
It's usually dormant because I'm lazy.
I did, during a week in which I flew home from London and took multiple days off, craft this piece on the Bengals, their quaterback change, and the way the team's lack of direction highlights its almost total lack of leadership.
Unfortunately, I wrote it before I found out that key figures in team management were spending the days leading up to and including the trade deadline on vacation in Switzerland.
That's right, all hell is breaking loose in Cincinnati, and yet the next generation of this franchise's leaders are busy taking scenic tours of the glacial express.
And you say I'm lazy.
Anyway, lots of stuff has happened. I've had takes. Many have been shared on the radio. A few on Twitter. None on this here internet space, so before we get to the guessing of football outcomes for your entertainment and investment pleasure, here are my takes.
*Andy Dalton being benched is not about blaming Andy Dalton for the team's 0-8 record, it is about a player (Dalton) underperforming and a coach (Zac Taylor) looking for more from the position than he's getting while at the same time, giving a chance for a player they value (Ryan Finley) to show what he can do, with the added benefit of having the extra time to prepare that's afforded by the bye week.
Yes, it is a clear move away from Dalton as the QB of the future, but whenever a team with a myriad of issues does something that either directly or indirectly points the finger at only one of them, it comes off as scapegoating.
That's not what's happening here.
What's happening is that the Bengals are 0-8, the coach is turning over every stone in an effort to try to win (which is, after all, what many of us have urged the Bengals as an organization to do), and after months of stressing accountability, Taylor is holding his team's highest-paid player accountable.
Those are good things.
Yes, it would've been awesome if the Bengals would've traded Dalton, gotten something in return, and found a place for him. Yes, the timing of the benching, to use Dalton's own word, was unfortunate. This whole effing season is unfortunate. But I don't believe the Bears would've been as interested as everyone believes, and as much as I like Andy Dalton (I'm the guy who got crushed for sending this tweet), the Bengals owed him nothing.
They do owe themselves every effort possible to try to improve their team. That they didn't do that is something we all should take them to task for.
*The Bengals should leave 2015 in the past. It feels like the organizational plan is to keep trying and trying some more to recapture the magic the '15 Bengals used to win 12 games. If I'm wrong, then why so many of the players that made up that team still here?
This brings us to AJ Green. I love AJ Green. I wish I was watching the second half of the NFL season watching AJ Green catch passes from someone besides Ryan Finley for a team better than the one that employs him now.
But even though they didn't trade him, I'm still not sure I'd sign him long-term.
There are 23 players aged 32 or older that have caught passes in an NFL regular season game this season. AJ Green might be better than all of them, but he has played in only 35 of his team's last 56 games, he will be 32 by the time next season begins, and as great as he is and for as much as we all like him, I'm really not sure I'm interested in paying top-end money to have a front-row seat for Green's continual decline.
Yes, he's bristled publicly at the idea of playing under a franchise tag. But he's also pledged not to hold out if he was taggged, and he'd been as motivated as ever under what would essentially be a "prove-it" deal, plus - and you're being very fair if you want to remind me that the Bengals would never do this, but we can revisit the whole "trade AJ at the deadline" thing next year, OR we could even have a round of fun discussions about trading him before training camp after they've tagged him.
I understand the value AJ still has, particularly for a newbie head coach who's trying to instill a certain culture, and whomever the hell the starting quarterback for the Bengals is in 2020, he could do a lot worse that have a guy like Green help ease him into the NFL. Even despite the number of games he's missed in recent seasons, I'll bet he is still an effective player next season.
But I'm just not a fan of rebuilding teams extending players into their mid-30s, particularly ones that have AJ Green's injury history. And as tired as I am of hearing about how the Bengals just need better luck in order to recapture the magic of four years ago, the longer we go trying to turn back time, the worse off the Bengals will be.
I say use the franchise tag on AJ Green.
*Mike Bohn was an effective administrator at the University of Cincinnati. He hired Luke Fickell, John Brannen, Scott Googins, and Michelle Clark-Heard. He oversaw Fifth Third Arena's renovation. I don't know when the next wave of conference realignment will occur, or even if the UC will be invited to join a better, more lucrative league. I do know that the school is better positioned to join a Power 5 conference than it was when Bohn took over the Whit Babcock.
Bohn leaving is not a disastrous development for UC, but the timing isn't ideal, not with the silly season of college football coaching rumors on the verge of heating up, something of particular interest to those of us who throw our support behind the Bearcats. Luke Fickell is a hot commodity, which would've been a true statement regardless of whether or not Mike Bohn was the AD at UC. Does Bohn leaving complicate things a little? Perhaps, especially if Urban Meyer doesn't end up coaching the Trojans and Bohn starts a search by reaching out to the guy he hired in Cincinnati. Whatever the status of the Athletic Director job at UC is when this football season ends, there is going to a premium on keeping Fickell, and surely other schools are going to show interest. Navigating what's ahead for UC's football head coaching position is a tough task to ask of someone serving as an interim AD, and not the easiest way to start a new job if by the time Fickell is receiving overtures, the school has a new, permanent AD.
Anyway, best of luck to Mike Bohn.
*I watched UC's basketball exhibition. I almost didn't recognize what I saw: players moving without the ball, guys cutting, offense being played instead of orchestrated. It was refreshing.
Most college basketball exhibition games are sloppy. Thursday night wasn't perfect, but the Bearcats weren't sloppy either. I'll take not being sloppy as a nice first step toward a successful year one of the John Brannen era.
Let's guess some outcomes.
Professional football games I'll be investing in on a weekend the Bengals can't ruin....
Pittsburgh (+1) over Indianapolis. The Steelers are tough to figure out. They have lost four games against opponents that are a combined 27-4. Their three victories are against squads that are a combined 3-20. Three of their losses were by four points or less. Pittsburgh's defense is better than you think - the metrics would be very favorable if you threw out their season-opener against New England - and as a home underdog facing an Cots offense that was really shaky in a win over Denver last week, I like the Steelers in this spot.
Plus, in a close contest, I'll take the team that doesn't have trust issues with its kicker.
Jets (-3) over Miami. Bad games provide good betting opportunities. The Dolphins are obviously awful, then you throw in that teams coming off a Monday night road game have covered just 43 percent of the time since 2000.
Tennessee/Carolina under 42.5. Good defenses. Shaky quarterbacks. Ugly uniforms. Not many points.
Chargers (+3.5) over Green Bay. I've had to talk myself into this one a little, but I'll take the points anticipating a slightly healthier LA team than what we've seen, the new bump that can come with bringing in a new offensive coordinator, another week for Melvin Gordon to get back into the fold, and a belief that even with a more balanced offense, the Packers have benefited from good fortune just a little too much to lay more than a field goal.
Cleveland/Denver under 39 points. A game featuring one QB making his first start, another who leads the league in picks, and a home dog that has the third most-efficient defense in the league. I like the Browns to win. I like neither team doing much scoring even more.
Philadelphia -4 over Chicago. I don't believe for a second that the Chicago Bears would've been desperate enough to give the Bengals much value in exchange for Andy Dalton. That doesn't excuse the Bengals for not trying to trade him, but the notion that they were going to get a ton for him from a desperate Chicago team is false.
Still, the Bears can't throw. The Eagles won't allow them to win. Philly's late-season surge is upon us. I'll lay the points.
College tilts of significance...
I've written this entire thing on a plane going from CVG to Greenville, and we are about to land, so these will be brief.
Cincinnati (-23.5) over ECU. The Bearcats are 5-2 ATS, they were great coming out of their last bye- winning by 38 on the road - and the Pirates just lost at home by 25 to USF in a game in which ECU scored on a game-opening kick return for a TD, and put up ten garbage time points in the final five minutes. This is a big number to cover on the road in league play coming off of a shaky offensive effort against Tulsa, but I like the 'Cats chances.
Bearcats 38 Pirates 14
Clemson/Wofford under 59.5
Colorado/UCLA under 65
Wake Forest (-7.5) over NC State
Kansas State (-5.5) over Kansas
Notre Dame (-17.5) over Virginia Tech
UConn (+27.5) over Navy
I'm paying attention to the Maryland/Michigan line, which has been all over the place, from 16 to 21. If it goes to 18 and up by kickoff, I'm taking Boomer Esiason's alma mater.
That's all I've got. Have a pleasant weekend.
NFL mark in 2019: 26-16
College mark in 2019: 24-19-1