Yesterday I ran a story about how last night’s Houston Texans vs Cincinnati Bengals game was a must win for both teams. I stated that it was rare for the second game of the season to be a must win, but because of just how poorly both teams played in the opening weekend that a second loss would put whichever team it was into a panic. And I said it would be worse for the Bengals if they lost, because they had no injury excuses, no hurricane excuses, and it would be back to back home losses before heading off to play the Green Bay Packers.
The Bengals, after coming off a shut-out loss to the Baltimore Ravens, went on to lose to the Texans 13-9. All nine of those points came from field goals. Quarterback Andy Dalton played better in week two, but it would be almost impossible not to, with how he played in week one. The team has been outscored 33 to 9, given up eight sacks and Dalton is now 46 for 67 for 394 yards no touchdown and four interceptions. Where he improved is that he didn’t turn the ball over in week two — that would be the only silver lining.
Now, before you say, “It’s only game two, you’re over reacting,” — you could be 100% correct, but the team is reacting the same way. Today they announced that they’ve fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese. Ken took over the coordinator position last year and the passing offense went from 7th in the league to 24th. That’s not good. He’s been with the organization for 15 years, same as head coach Marvin Lewis. Zampese was Quarterback’s coach prior to being promoted to coordinator. The current quarterback’s coach Bill Lazor (great name) will be taking over as the offensive coordinator.
The most amazing stat is that this is the first time the Bengals have fired a coordinator during the season in their 50-year history. But then the team has gotten off to the worst offensive start in their history. The Bengals are the first team to fail to score a touchdown in their first two home games since the Philadelphia Eagles did it in 1939. This is also the second consecutive year where an offensive coordinator was fired after the Thursday night game in week two. Last year, the Buffalo Bills parted was with Greg Roman after their prime-time loss to the New York Jets. So the precedent was there.
You never want to see a person fired, but the Bengals offense has been dramatically worse since Zampese replaced Hue Jackson who went to be the head coach of the Cleveland Browns after the 2015 season. And the firing was necessary, as the team is now snake bit and have to wait 10 days before hitting the field again. That’s a lot of time for doubts to fill a player’s brain, and believing in yourself and your teammates is a crucial part of winning. Oftentimes when a new coach is hired, they talk about changing the environment and part of that is getting the players to believe they can win. I don’t think the Bengals believe that right now, and hopefully Lazor can bring that confidence back.
Plenty of teams have come back from an 0-2 start to make the playoffs and a few even won the Super Bowl, so the season isn’t over. If the Bengals can go to Lambeau Field on the 24th and put up some good offensive numbers, then get a win or two against Cleveland and Buffalo the following weeks before heading into their bye week, they could salvage the season. But if they go into Green Bay and the offense perform poorly with no sign of improvement, and then they have to go face their former OC from when times were good… they might end up spending that bye week taking a seriously look at back-up QB A. J. McCarron and figuring the good vacation locales for January.