The city of Cincinnati has spent this entire NFL season pinching itself. After years of mediocre and just flat-out bad quarterback play, the Cincinnati Bengals have finally found a franchise signal-caller in Joe Burrow.
Burrow has risen the Bengals from the depths of NFL purgatory and has transformed them into legit Super Bowl contenders. But the quarterback’s success in Cincinnati carries extra significance, and not just because the team has been a perennial laughingstock.
Burrow’s Bengals success means more because, as he said on Sunday, he’s “from Ohio.”
Joe Burrow has transformed the Cincinnati Bengals into Super Bowl contenders
It has been quite a while since the Bengals have truly been an NFL powerhouse.
Sure, they had fun teams with Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson (Ochocinco), but they only made the playoffs twice and lost in the wild-card round each time. Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, and that stellar defense also led Cincy to a bit of success, making the playoffs in five straight seasons from 2011 through 2015, but the team, again, lost in the wild-card round every season.
In fact, the Bengals, who have yet to win a Lombardi Trophy in franchise history, haven’t won a playoff game since 1990. They made two Super Bowl appearances in the 1980s, but they lost in one-score games to the San Francisco 49ers both times.
Now, after recording a combined 25-53-2 record from 2016 through 2020, Burrow has risen the team from the ashes. He has the city rocking and tasting a whole lot more than just Skyline Chili; it’s tasting football prosperity and what it’s like to have championship aspirations.
Burrow and Cincy are currently 10-6 and the AFC North champions. He and his talented receiving corps, which includes rookie sensation Ja’Marr Chase, have turned the Bengals offense into one of the most explosive units in the NFL. They even proved it in Week 17 by going toe-to-toe (and beating) the two-time reigning AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs.
This success means a lot to Cincinnati and the state of Ohio in general, and that’s also why it carries extra significance for Burrow.
Joe Burrow: ‘It means more because I’m from Ohio’
After the Bengals’ AFC North-clinching win over the Chiefs on Sunday, a reporter asked Joe Burrow about whether the division title carried any extra meaning for him because of the doubters saying he wouldn’t succeed in Cincy.
His response, though, highlighted his relationship with the state of Ohio.
“I would say it means more because I’m from Ohio,” he said, per a tweet from Fox 19’s Jeremy Rauch. “I know the history of the Bengals. I know the ownership that we have has taken a lot of heat, but they do a great job and have done a great job building this team. And so, a lot of credit to the Brown family for doing that. They did a great job hiring [head coach] Zac [Taylor]. Couldn’t have asked for a better situation from ownership all the way down.”
In case you haven’t followed Burrow’s path to stardom, here’s the cliff-notes version.
His father, Jimmy Burrow, was the defensive coordinator for the Ohio University Bobcats for over a decade, and Joe grew up in Athens, Ohio. After a successful career at Athens High School, he went to Ohio State University, where he sat behind Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett, and Dwayne Haskins. He, however, didn’t get much playing time with the Buckeyes, so he then transferred to LSU.
After leading LSU to a national championship and winning the Heisman Trophy in 2019, Burrow moved back to Ohio when the Bengals selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Now, he’s looking to win a Super Bowl for his home state, which would likely mean just a little more to him than if he were to win one on another team.
The Bengals QB can join a group of other pro athletes who have won championships in their home states
Winning a title back at home always means more. We saw the emotion LeBron James felt after he won an NBA championship for Northeast Ohio, where he grew up as a kid, while on the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016.
No, Burrow isn’t from Cincinnati, but he would still be winning a title for the state that turned him into the man he is today.
He wouldn’t be the first pro athlete to do this, either.
In addition to LeBron James, baseball legends Pete Rose and Barry Larkin were also from Ohio (Cincinnati specifically) and won World Series titles with the Cincinnati Reds. Cal Ripkin Jr. grew up in Maryland and then won a World Series on the Baltimore Orioles in 1983. Clyde Drexler also went to high school in Houston, led the University of Houston to two Final Fours, and then won an NBA championship with the Houston Rockets in 1995.
Sure, Joe Burrow would have found success on whatever team he went to in the 2020 draft, but doing it around people and places he grew up around likely holds extra significance. He now has a chance to take Cincinnati to heights it has never reached.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference