Well, the Cincinnati Bengals did accomplish one thing this season. As of yesterday evening, the AFC North basement dwellers earned the distinction of becoming the first team in 2019 to be officially eliminated from postseason contention after posting their 10th consecutive loss in as many games.
The Bengals are actually experiencing a period of futility that is unprecedented in their history, as never before had they lost 12 consecutive games, as they have now done going back to the Week 16 game of the 2018 season. The last team that they beat was the Oakland Raiders in Week 15.
Now the Raiders in Week 11 were the team to hand them their 10th loss in 2019, positioning themselves for a playoff spot while eliminating the Bengals from contention, even though it was already a foregone conclusion that they had no realistic chance of getting there.
At 0-10, the Bengals are now tied for the worst start in their history, which they also ‘accomplished’ back in 1993. With six games to play, there are now three non-conference leaders who have already won six games, the maximum number of games Cincinnati can win this season, even in theory: the Houston Texans, the Buffalo Bills (who have seven wins), and the Raiders. The Bills are already beyond six wins, and the Raiders have the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Texans have already secured other tiebreakers the Bengals cannot reach, meaning they cannot possibly under any circumstances reach the postseason.
They can, however, earn the first-overall draft pick in 2020. They have the worst record in the league, with only Washington at 1-9 currently ‘threatening’ them, but Cincinnati is in the driver’s seat for the worst record. If they lose the rest of their games, they will secure the first-overall pick.
But the discussion about the value of that pick now shifts in light of the injury to Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who is now set for hip surgery. It’s far too early to really discuss the possible implications, but suffice it to say that it makes things more complicated.
Considering that the Bengals have literally no hope of making the postseason, the best thing the franchise can achieve in 2019 is to secure the first-overall pick. They have already benched their quarterback, Andy Dalton.
Rookie fourth-round pick Ryan Finley has started and lost the past two games, but I think it goes without saying that they’re not counting on him being a franchise player. Tagovailoa would be, in theory. Will he wind up in Cincinnati in April?