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The football world had concluded long before the 2020 NFL draft that LSU star Joe Burrow was bound for the Cincinnati Bengals with the No. 1 overall pick. It didn’t stop fans from speculating whether Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert might be the better option for a team in need of a quarterback.

That was especially true amidst speculation that Burrow didn’t want to play for a notoriously cheap and frequently bungling franchise. But it turns out that the Bengals chose more wisely than even they realized before Week 4 of the NFL season began.

Joe Burrow looked like a can’t-miss choice by the Cincinnati Bengals

It’s looking as though the Cincinnati Bengals chose every bit as wisely as Joe Burrow did. Remember, Burrow started his college career with three years at Ohio State before deciding that Urban Meyer had gone all-in on Dwayne Haskins as the Buckeyes’ quarterback. Burrow made the decision to move on to a program that would showcase his ability.

All Burrow did at LSU was tear apart Southeastern Conference defenses. After throwing for 2,894 yards and a modest 16 touchdowns as a redshirt junior in 2018, Burrow went wild in his collegiate swan song. He piled up 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns in a 15-0 season last fall in leading the Tigers to the national championship over Clemson.

Burrow cleaned up when it came to honors, too, sweeping the Heisman Trophy – by the largest margin ever — the Walter Camp Award, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, and the Maxwell Award.

Even with training facilities shuttered in the spring and summer because of the pandemic and preseason games canceled, Burrow proceeded to establish himself quickly as the Bengals’ successor to Andy Dalton.

Beating the Jacksonville Jaguars in NFL Week 4 was a breakthrough

The Cincinnati Bengals handed Joe Burrow a conservative game plan in the 2020 NFL opener against the Los Angeles Chargers, and he threw for a modest 193 yards with one interception. However, the coaching staff and Bengals fans started to see the real Joe Burrow emerge in the following two weeks.

He threw for 316 yards and a trio of touchdowns in another close loss, this time to the Cleveland Browns, and then 312 yards and two more touchdowns in the Week 3 tie vs. the Philadelphia Bengals.

Week 4 marked a milestone moment as Burrow went 25-for-36 for another 300 yards and a touchdown. The Bengals defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars, 33-25, earning Burrow his first victory as an NFL quarterback. The performance proved to be record-setting.

Burrow is the first NFL rookie QB ever to throw for 300 or more yards in three straight games. Interestingly, Los Angeles Chargers rookie Justin Herbert just missed matching the feat, coming up 10 yards short in the wild shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Joe Burrow’s simple act confirms he’s the right guy

One of the longstanding traditions in football is the awarding of game balls following victories. As the de facto leader of the Cincinnati Bengals, Burrow was the natural selection for the honor following the team’s first victory of the season and the first in his NFL career.

More often than not, players or coaches give game balls – especially their first – a special place in their trophy case at home. In fact, they’ll often go the extra mile to have the ball painted and embossed with the score, date, and site of the game.

That’s not this guy’s style, however. He may be the future of the franchise, but Burrow made it clear that the 2020 season isn’t about him. Symbolically, Burrow confirmed he’s a team-first guy.

“It was a really good football, so I just threw it right back in with the other game balls so we don’t lose it,” Burrow told Pro Football Talk. We’re gonna use it for the game next week. You only get so many. You’ve got to keep them when you can.”

Later, he delivered a three-word summation of the day on Twitter: “Winning is fun.”