Should Joe Burrow Refuse to Play for the Cincinnati Bengals?

In his two years as Louisiana State’s quarterback, Joe Burrow achieved a staggering number of accomplishments. Most notably, he won the 2019 Heisman trophy, while leading the Tigers to a victory in the 2020 National Championship. Many commentators felt that Burrow’s senior year at LSU was one of the greatest college quarterback seasons ever.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that analysts consider Burrow the top prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft. Since the Cincinnati Bengals hold the No. 1 pick, it’s fair to assume Burrow will end up a Bengal. Yet at least one former player feels the QB should publicly refuse to play for Cincinnati.

The Bengals’ problems in recent years

The Bengals have been one of the most dismal NFL teams for as long as most fans can recall. This season they ended with a horrific 2-14 record. The three years prior, they had 6-10, 7-9, and 6-9-1 records. While Cincinnati made it to the wild-card round several times in the last decade, they lost all of those games.

You would have to go back to 1990 to find a season when the Bengals won a playoff game. Over the years, analysts have floated a lot of theories about why the team is so bad. Actor Woody Harrelson even claims to have placed a curse on the Bengals during an ’80s episode of the TV show Cheers.

The one thing commentators agree on is that owner and general manager Mike Brown is at the root of the problem. He has consistently struggled to put together winning teams yet Brown won’t bring in anybody to take over general manager duties. Organizational dysfunction and a lack of strategic vision are the hallmarks of the team.

Joe Burrow’s option for avoiding the Bengals

Many fans and analysts worry that if Burrow ends up with the Bengals, his considerable skills will go to waste. But how exactly could the QB avoid this fate? Former No. 1 draft pick Steve Bartkowski recently chimed in with a somewhat controversial solution.

He suggested that Burrow should publicly refuse to play for the Bengals, thus forcing them to either trade their pick or use it on a different player. While this strategy may seem farfetched, it’s worked in at least one high profile case. Let’s look at that historical precedent. 

The time Eli Manning refused to play for the Chargers

A similar situation cropped up in 2004 when Eli Manning was the top prospect. San Diego held the No. 1 pick in the draft. At that time, the Chargers were mired in a long stretch of losing, with no real hopes for improvement aside from drafting Manning.

Manning, however, didn’t want to land in a losing situation. So, prior to the draft, he made it clear through his agent that he would not play for the Chargers if they selected him. The strongarm tactic worked, and San Diego ultimately traded the No. 1 pick to the New York Giants, selecting quarterback Philip Rivers instead.

Will Burrow employ a similar strategy to avoid years of struggle in Cincinnati? So far, nobody knows. The quarterback has been diplomatic regarding where he ends up, saying only that he’ll be happy to play for “whoever wants to pay me money.” It seems safe to assume that plenty of teams besides the Bengals would also be happy to pay for Burrow’s skills.

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