The Cincinnati Bengals are trying to turn over a new leaf with new head coach Zac Taylor. In order to convey that image to the public, it might be advisable for them to take a more hardline stance when it comes to players who get in trouble—especially those who are habitual offenders.
I wrote about Mark Walton two days ago, a rookie running back who was drafted as a fourth-round pick in 2018. He played in 14 games last year, but received very limited work behind Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, both of whom are former second-round picks and more experience.
Walton was arrested after he got into an altercation in a parking garage in Florida where he evidently was blocking another vehicle from exiting, which turned into a physical confrontation, leading to minor injuries and him spending some time in jail.
But it turns out it wasn’t his first arrest. He was also arrested in January, before Taylor was officially hired, for possession of marijuana. The arrest occurred during a traffic stop when he was pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt. With him as a passenger was a bag of dope.
So you have a young player who is a third-stringer, a mid-round pick who barely contributed during his rookie season, and he has already been arrested twice in the span of a month, likely with league discipline to follow. If you’re the ‘new look’ Bengals, what do you do?
Chances are, it won’t matter, because the ownership hasn’t changed. It’s still Mike Brown, the same guy who defended Adam Jones after video of his arrest in the back of a squad car in which he repeated insulted the arresting officer and spit in the back of the car. Brown recounted a story about Jones’ child to vouch for his character and to justify retaining him on the roster.
He’s the same owner who also signed off on drafting Mixon, and who continues to employ Vontaze Burfict, whose performance on the field less and less frequently actually resembles that of a starter, let alone balances out his negative characteristics. He was a team captain last year.
The face on the sidelines might have changed, but how much authority will Taylor have? I fully believe that Marvin Lewis was quite complicit in the Bengals’ personnel decisions over the years, but everything still ultimately comes down to Brown.
Now, I’m not going to go out of my way to advocate for the Bengals releasing Walton because he was arrested twice. After all, the Cleveland Browns just signed Kareem Hunt. Almost every team takes a chance or turns a blind eye on occasion. But nevertheless, the situation does present Brown and the Bengals with an interesting test.