The last time the Cincinnati Bengals won a playoff game, Joe Burrow wasn’t even born. In fact, even Tom Brady was just a teenager trying to overcome sprinklers to win a high-school championship. Even with Andy Dalton behind center, Cincinnati endured five straight one-and-done postseason berths. But with Burrow making his way back home, the Bengals may finally be able to extinguish the NFL’s most embarrassing record.
Joe Burrow is no stranger to breaking records
By now, everyone knows the story of Joe Burrow. The one-time Ohio State backup left the Buckeyes behind for the LSU Tigers. Of course, that decision didn’t pay immediate dividends. In 2018, Burrow looked anything like a future first-round pick, let alone a candidate to go No. 1 overall.
Thanks to an RPO-inspired scheme implemented by LSU’s other Joe—as in new Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady—Burrow transformed from a late-round NFL draft prospect into an unstoppable force. Surrounded by a wealth of talented receivers and a first-round running back, the 6-foot-4, 221-pounder shattered both SEC and NCAA records.
As the engineer conducting the Tigers’ train, Burrow threw for an FBS-record 60 touchdowns. He set the SEC single-season record with 5,671 passing yards. And his 463 passing yards in LSU’s national title game victory broke the previous record set by Deshaun Watson in 2017.
The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season
Joe Burrow’s breakout season couldn’t have come at a better time for the Bengals. Cincinnati’s offense got hampered by injuries in the first year under Zac Taylor. Dalton went 2-11 and finished with his lowest completion percentage since his rookie year. Armed with the No. 1 overall pick, the Bengals wasted no time making their hometown kid the new face of the franchise.
For the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, the pressure to perform will be immense. Not only does Burrow have to turn around the NFL’s worst team from 2019 but he also has to snap an embarrassing NFL record in the process.
Cincinnati currently owns the NFL record for the longest streak without a playoff victory. After beating the Houston Oilers on January 6, 1991, the Bengals have never tasted postseason success again. Dalton lost all four of his playoff starts. And while some of those failures fall on Pacman Jones and Vontaze Burfict, that doesn’t change the fact that the Bengals own the NFL’s most embarrassing record.
Burrow and the Bengals have an underrated roster capable of making the playoffs
Despite their ugly 2-14 record from a year ago, the Bengals actually have plenty of talent to get excited about. Burrow obviously takes over as the franchise’s most important player. But as he did at LSU, he’ll have a strong arsenal of weapons. A.J. Green should be fully healthy after spending last season on the sidelines. Tyler Boyd has quietly developed into one of the NFL’s most underrated slot receivers. The Bengals also used the No. 33 pick on downfield threat Tee Higgins. He caught 25 touchdowns in his final two years at Clemson and should grow into Burrow’s eventual top target.
On the other side of the ball, the Bengals have typically been at least a league-average unit. But by splurging on D.J. Reader, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander and Vonn Bell, the defense could trend into top-12 territory. Having Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Sam Hubbard up front doesn’t hurt, either.
Joe Burrow faces enormous expectations as a rookie. Generations of Bengals fans have endured crippling playoff losses and plenty of disappointing seasons. But Burrow brings swagger and a championship pedigree to Cincinnati. If he’s able to live up to the hype and take advantage of a division that’s wide open behind the Baltimore Ravens, the Bengals may finally be able to celebrate their first playoff victory since 1991.
No pressure, kid.