How about this cover of an October, 2006 Sports Illustrated:
It feels like I'm looking at pictures of a family reunion from 1986. That picture was taken within the past 24 months - but it seems like eons ago. Here's a link to that now sickening article.
To take it back a few years, read this 2003 Bengals.com article about rising star--and fan favorite--Chad Johnson. Remember how optimistic we were as fans? Marvin Lewis and Carson Palmer had just arrived, and everything appeared to be moving in the right direction for the first time in over a decade.
Can you imagine reading an article today where the following lines are written:
"Chad is an exciting guy," Lewis said. "He wants to do it the right way. We want all our players to want to be here. To feel comfortable so they can be down here to learn, improve, get better and prosper as players."
"I only want to think about football," Johnson said. "My first two years I didn't. I want to be up here by myself. Now I know what it takes. I want to be focused. I can't wait now. I want to start out just as fast When is the first pre-season game?"
What the hell happened?
One other thing: I also tried, unsuccessfully, to locate a KC Joyner (aka the Football Scientist) column or chat from 2006 (or maybe mid-'05) where he compared the 2005-and-beyond Bengals to the early-90's Cowboys. I don't know if Joyner is credible or not--although I do know he's a jerk--but I vividly recall him comparing the young and explosive talent of the Carson Palmer/Marvin Lewis Bengals to that of the '90-'91 Cowboys.
I just thought I'd remind you that it wasn't that long ago that the Bengals were not only relevant...they were good.
Okay, now the difference between Carson Palmer and Peyton Manning, two guys who were consistently lumped in the top three NFL quarterbacks (along with Tom Brady, of course) as recently as mid-'06 (and in many cases, preseason '07):
Did you watch the Colts-Vikings game Sunday? The Colts couldn't get anything going all day long, and with under two minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter, trailed Minnesota 15-0 on the strength of five Ryan Longwell field goals. Now, as I was watching this game (and pulling hard for the Vikings due to my futures bet), I never felt like the Colts couldn't--or wouldn't--come back and win the damn thing. Despite dealing with constant pressure from Minnesota's relentless pass rush, and despite the Colts being banged up everywhere (and without Pro
Bowl center Jeff Saturday), I still gave the Colts a chance. And so did you, probably.
Why? They had Peyton Manning. It didn't matter that they had no rushing game to speak of (Addai was shut down), or that the Vikings are a good football team with a great defense - and playing in Minneapolis. None of that mattered. Peyton Manning found a way when it mattered most - and that's a quality, much as I hate to admit, Carson Palmer simply doesn't possess.
But the point isn't that Manning actually won the game. In fact, I'd be writing the same thing had they lost (and besides, Manning isn't exactly the poster child for CLUTCH). The point is this: Regardless of the situation of any game involving the Colts, their fans will always believe they have a chance to win as long as they have No. 18 on their side.
If you find yourself disagreeing with this, let me ask you one question: When the Bengals closed the gap with Baltimore to 17-10 in week 1, was the feeling inside of you, we have a chance, we have Palmer? I find it hard to believe that you answered yes to this.
Which is sad. Because I can't think of a better way to define a franchise quarterback.
-Brad Spieser (Brad@TwinKilling.com)