Mel Kiper finally said it - why Burrow to the Bengals is a good fit.
Updated: Apr 20, 2020
There has been no shortage of Bengals slander the past several months revolving around Joe Burrow getting drafted by Cincinnati. Both football “experts” and laypeople have made the argument that he ought to hold out or refuse to play like Eli Manning or Steve Young. In support of this argument, they cite Cincy’s recent struggles and general disfunction as reasons why Burrow would be better off somewhere else. In reality, these arguments are half-baked. Burrow to the Bengals is actually a good fit – far better than a lot of number one QB’s.
Mel Kiper has been a refreshing alternative to the litany of hot take pundits out there. Recently on 'Get Up,' he fiercely argued against the idea almost as if he was from the 513 himself. It is nice to see someone in the national media actually use some logic and common sense as opposed to just firing off their hot takes for effect. Lets take a little more in depth look why Burrow getting drafted by the Bengals may not be as bad as everyone says.
One of the most idiotic talking points revolving around this subject is that Cincinnati is some sort of quarterback bust factory akin to Cleveland. Since 2003, the Bengals have drafted and truly invested in only two quarterbacks via early draft picks (Palmer and Dalton). Since 2004 (when Palmer became the starter), 230 of the 254 Bengals games have been started by Palmer and Dalton. In other words, over the last 16 years, 90% of Bengals games have been played with Palmer/Dalton as the starting QB. This time frame has included five trips to the pro bowl by them – 2 for Palmer and 3 for Dalton. Say what you want about Palmer and Dalton, both have their fair share of critics, but they have both had reasonably successful careers, and are in no way considered “busts.”
Compared to a lot of other organizations, Cincinnati has a fairly good track record when it comes to quarterback play and development. For example, look at the Browns who are on the complete other end of the spectrum. Since 2014 alone (I didn’t feel like going back further than that), starts from a whopping 7 different QB’s must be combined to make up 90% of Browns games (Mayfield, Taylor, Kizer, Kessler, McCown, Manziel, Hoyer). I realize the Browns are an extreme example, but this just puts things in perspective. If similar stats were gathered for the entire league, I would be willing to bet the Bengals would be on the more successful end of the spectrum.
Also, the Bengals made a streak five consecutive trips to the playoffs from 2011-2015. That streak was capped off with a 12-4 season in 2015 which was tied for the best in the AFC. All of this was accomplished with a young Andy Dalton – AJ Green combo. In the past decade, only five other franchises have made five or more consecutive playoff appearances (New England, Kansas City, Denver, Seattle, and Green Bay). That is elite company to be keeping. Additionally, only eight franchises have made the playoffs 5 or more times during that time frame. Essentially, in terms of regular season success, the Bengals are in the top 10 over the past decade.
So, the idea that Cincinnati has historically been a place where quarterback’s careers go to die, or that it has been devoid of success is simply wrong. I am not making the argument that Cincinnati is the gold standard of NFL organizations or that they are a perfect model of success. Obviously, the Bengals have had their fair share of disappointment. I am simply putting things in perspective to show that it hasn’t been as bad as many would like you to believe.
Secondly, the Bengals have a great core of offensive skill positions that will certainly help Burrow’s transition. Many first overall QB’s step into a much worse situation where offensive weapons are scarce. Burrow will have the luxury of a solid combo of veteran and younger guys to rely on such as:
1. AJ Green – a well-rested and healthy 6x pro bowl receiver;
2. Tyler Boyd – coming off back-to-back 70+ reception and 1000+ yard seasons;
3. Joe Mixon – coming of back-to-back 1100+ yard seasons;
4. Gio Bernard – veteran back and reliable safety valve;
5. John Ross – yes, he has been somewhat underwhelming so far, but he has shown glimpses brilliance; and
6. Auden Tate and Alex Erickson both have shown some potential as young receivers.
Compared with the most recent QBs taken first overall, Burrow will inherit an excellent supply of offensive talent.
- Murray in 2019 took over with David Johnson @ RB who hasn’t been good since 2016, veteran Larry Fitzgerald as his number one target, and Christian Kirk who had 43 career receptions entering the season as his number two.
- Mayfield in 2018 stepped into Cleveland with a rookie Nick Chubb, aging Carlos Hyde, and newly acquired Jarvis Landry as his only real weapons.
- Goff in 2016 inherited a situation in LA with Kenny Brit, whose career high in receiving was 775 yds up to that point, as his top target, and Tavon Austin, who has never recorded more than 60 receptions in a year as his number two.
- Winston in 2015 had a fairly good situation with Doug Martin, Mike Evans, and Vincent Jackson as his primary weapons.
Obviously, the Bengals have some major needs, especially on the offensive line. But hopefully with Jonah Williams added to the lineup, the addition of veteran Su’a-Filo, and any draft related acquisitions, the offensive line will be much better than a year ago. Regardless, Burrow will have some serious talent around him on day one, arguably more than any of the past four QBs taken at number one have had.
Something that often gets lost in this discussion is the fact that Burrow is from Ohio and went to Ohio State. Combine that with a fanbase eager for change and someone they can rally behind, and Cincy truly becomes a mutually great fit for Burrow and the Bengals.