For so many years (think 2001–2010), we (Bengals fans) defended our problem children (Chad, T.O., Housh, multiple inmates, arrestees and—yes—even Carson in his own way) and enabled them to say, do and act as they pleased. While they’d gallivant around the field, city and the country as a side-show act, we continued to support them, thinking they were the best viable options to this circus-of-an-organization. We knew everyone else in and around the league was laughing at (not with) us. But damn it, that was our team, and damn it, we were going to stick with them unconditionally.
That is, until the 2011 Bengals came along. After multiple off season moves and with the 2011 draft, the Bengals sneaked away with [most notably] Pro-Bowl caliber rookie wide-out sensation A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton, who has more-oft-than-not been in the conversation along with Cam Newton to be Rookie of the Year. With those 2011 moves and draft, the Cincinnati Bengals seemingly ran away with an entirely new team and an entirely new attitude and outlook (albeit with the same front office).
There are still parolees who don stripes (see what I did there?) week in and week out (Rey Maualuga, Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones, and now Jerome Simpson to name a few), but it seems that this team has grown up quite a bit in such a short period of time. I’ll admit that the Bengals of the past were entertaining, but—like Tim Tebow—it was not sustainable. And, in the newer times, I’d much rather go Green (and Red).
Funny how it works—that with more experience came more immaturity, and now, with less experience comes a sense of cool maturity. Yes, there is still a fair share of growing pains, but that’s normal. And with age, this team can only get better.