Something akin to this picture at right likely won’t happen next season, as Chad Johnson has finally said he will not show up at any functions of the Cincinnati Bengals, which means he’ll likely sit out if they don’t trade him. As this made its way through ESPN’s opinion cycle (and many others), it finally got Johnson the complete “T.O.” treatment as another selfish, prima-donna wide receiver who ought to just shut up and play; he’s hurting the team’s chemistry and chances by being so public.
Ocho Cinco has every right to bitch, gripe, piss and moan about a front office that has done absolutely nothing to improve an offensively loaded team on the defensive end. Johnson took heat for his end zone celebrations, which were completely harmless, because it was perceived as a distraction when his team was losing. Essentially, he was catching flack that ought to be directed at his coach, Marvin Lewis. Lewis is entering his sixth season with the team after his rep as a “defensive genius” was solidified after the Ravens’ Super Bowl win in 2000, and via Pro Football Reference, we learn that the Bengals’ defense has never been in the top half of the NFL in either points or rush yards allowed. The reason the team could skate and make the playoffs a couple years ago was because they were quite skilled in creating turnovers until last season.
In short, Marvin Lewis, at this point, has clearly taken his genius lessons from Brian Billick. You can project the level of genius as a coach when you have guys like Ray Lewis in his prime, Sam Adams, and Rod Woodson (on the downside, but still good), but when you have to create one from scratch, well….that’s a bit tougher.
It’s far beyond time to acknowledge the obvious in the larger conversation when a player loudly and publicly slams his organization and demands a trade: just because someone is loud and potentially obnoxious does not make him wrong. Johnson’s frustration appears to be borne out of taking the brunt of the blame for a faltering Cincy team where he is the least of the problems. I’ve not seen Chad Johnson NOT play hard on the field and he is one of the few Bengals not to get into trouble with extracurricular activities that wind up on the police blotter.
If Chad were a quarterback and griping about his lack of help, it would at least merit a consideration rather than an outright slam. If he were Peyton Manning, the analysts would be questioning Bill Polian’s work. If he were Brett Favre two seasons ago, the cognoscenti would have questioned whether the Packers and Ted Thompson were doing enough to support their franchise.
In the NFL, where Not For Long and No Fun League are less inside jokes than sharp insight now, Johnson has as much right to gripe about the direction his team is going due to front office mismanagement as the teams have to dump any player who isn’t a big salary cap hit. For those of you who would say, “Oh, but he’s paid millions to play a game; he should shut up and be grateful” — well, let me put it this way. To earn those millions, he has to be the best at what he does and train to keep that status year-round. The Bengals’ coach and GM are not keeping their end of the bargain.