The Cincinnati Bengals Reportedly Toxic Culture Includes Abusive Locker Room Language

The Cincinnati Bengals have been a laughingstock for quite some time. Even when the Bengals had stellar players that led them to the playoffs in five consecutive seasons from 2011 through 2015, many fans made fun of them for not being able to win a playoff game. In the past few seasons, though, Cincinnati has been one of the worst teams in the NFL. It appears that all their problems aren’t just on the field, either, but in the locker room as well.

The Cincinnati Bengals hired Zac Taylor in 2019

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Zac Taylor became the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals in February 2019. Any Bengals fans who are also fans of the town’s college team, the Cincinnati Bearcats, probably scratched their heads at this hire.

Before becoming the head coach of the Bengals, Taylor spent time on the LA Rams‘ coaching staff. Prior to that, though, he was the offensive coordinator for Tommy Tuberville‘s Cincinnati Bearcats.

During the 2016 season with Taylor as the offensive coordinator, the Bearcats’ offense only averaged 19.3 points per game. The year before, without Taylor, though, UC averaged 33.8 points per game. The Bearcats did lose quite a few great receivers from that 2015 team, but averaging 14.5 fewer points is a significant dropoff.

So, while many fans wouldn’t have hired Taylor to run the Bengals’ offense, the organization asked him to run the entire team.

In the two years under Taylor so far, the Bengals are 4-21-1.

Cincinnati has been a laughingstock for years

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The Bengals haven’t won too many games over the years. From the 1991 season through 2008, Cincinnati only went to the playoffs once.

Finally in 2009, though, the Bengals started making some playoff appearances, as they reached the postseason in six of seven seasons from 2009 through 2015. Additionally, from 2011 through 2015, Andy Dalton and an excellent defense led the Bengals to five consecutive playoff appearances.

However, the Bengals lost in the Wild Card Round in each of those years, not winning a single playoff game. This included the collapse against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2015 season. The Bengals were 12-4 that year, and their defense ranked second in the NFL in points allowed. Cincinnati ultimately led the game late against the Steelers, but Pittsburgh went on to win after a Bengals meltdown.

All in all, Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, as they defeated the Houston Oilers in the Wild Card Round that year.

The team has mismanaged multiple situations

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The Bengals are 2-7-1 so far in 2020, which isn’t good, but No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow gave them hope. That was until he got hit during Cincinnati’s Week 11 game against Washington. Burrow ultimately tore his ACL and MCL, and suffered other structural issues, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Burrow’s injury results from the organization not protecting him with a solid offensive line. They reportedly have more problems than just that, though. According to Elise Jesse of Sports Illustrated, some Bengals players reportedly lack trust with coaches on the staff.

Taylor, his staff, and the organization have ultimately mishandled several situations the past couple of years. Some players weren’t reportedly happy about how the team handled Andy Dalton’s release, according to Jesse. This came after Cincinnati benched him just hours before the 2019 trade deadline. The Bengals then released him in April.

Additionally, when Bengals legend Carlos Dunlap had an issue with a decision made during a game, coaches reportedly chose not to talk to him directly but to single him out during a team meeting. According to Jesse, Dunlap later found out that he was being demoted by seeing the decision on a whiteboard in the coach’s office. The Bengals then eventually traded Dunlap to the Seattle Seahawks.

The Cincinnati Bengals have a toxic culture problem

The Cincinnati Bengals have been a laughingstock on the football field. However, they reportedly have a toxic problem off of it.
Head coach Zac Taylor of the Cincinnati Bengals watches action from the sideline during a game against the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 29, 2019. | 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

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In addition to just not handing situations in a respectable way, sources said to Jesse that the Bengals’ locker room culture is that of a “college-level,” and one even said that it’s worse than a college locker room.

Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo even reportedly uses abusive language, sources said to Jesse. He reportedly calls Bengals players “dumb mother f******” and “dumb b******”. He also reportedly yells at some players for making mistakes and ignores mistakes made by players “in his favor.”

Offensive line coach Jim Turner also reportedly called Isaiah Prince a “thug,” according to Jesse.

Zac Taylor declined to comment to Jesse and Sports Illustrated when asked about trust issues and Anarumo’s language. The Bengals clearly have a toxic issue in their locker room, though. This needs to get addressed from the very top, too. It’s time for this franchise to finally get things right, and that starts with fixing its culture.

Stats courtesy of Sports Reference and Pro Football Reference