Sometimes you say things that you feel sound right in the moment but may not recognize how it can be interpreted by others—and sometimes even recognize how what you said was even wrong. I’ve certainly done it one or two hundred times over the course of the 70,000 articles I’ve written here over the years.
I think I would classify Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor’s word choice as unfortunate when he was discussing with Geoff Hobson, the Bengals’ version of Bob Labriola, about the team’s 0-2 start, and why he believes that doesn’t reflect where they are.
Responding to Hobson pointing out that his first two teams started out 0-2 as well but that this year’s team “seems to be light years” from those, Taylor agreed, saying, “Totally different team. There’s a confidence here that you can’t just manufacture. It’s an earned confidence and our guys know that we’ll get back on the right track”.
I’m just not sure that’s what you want to say and to put out there and to have that be the headline of the feature article on your team’s website. I can’t see Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin really saying something like that—not that that is a good nor bad thing, just different.
What precisely have they earned? They’ve had one good season out of three under him, and the organization had a string of failures leading up to his hiring. Yes, they have presumed talents up and down the roster, yet they are still winless through two games, and they are the only team in the league that has yet to hold a lead at any point in any game this year.
Should they be confident that they will turn things around? I think it would be criminal for them not to. But calling it earned carries is a strong implication of proven pedigree. Yes, they went to the Super Bowl last year—and lost—but is one season of success enough to ‘earn’ that kind of confidence? Or at least enough to be able to put it out there in the public?
Now, of course the Bengals are still set up for a successful season. I have no doubt that they will finish with a winning record, and maybe even repeat as the division champions. They have a completely rebuilt offensive line that isn’t going to be playing this poorly a month from now, for one thing.
But especially for a team without a perennial history of credibility, it’s probably best to just let it play out on the field rather than to speak it into existence in headlines. It’s just naturally weird for somebody to be talking about ‘earned confidence’ in this situation. I have a hard time seeing many other head coaches saying something like that. Maybe I’m wrong. But this headline immediately jumped out at me as soon as I saw it, and I knew I was going to be writing about it. And so now you’re reading about it. What do you think?