Posted: 7:30 p.m.
Yet again apologies to Sports Illustrated's Peter King and Cincinnati sports talkmaster Lance McAlister with some things I know I think I believe.
The single most important stat for the Bengals this season is yards per rush.
Look at Carson Palmer's track record when he has at least a competent running game, which we'll call 4.0 yards per. Around these parts, that's known as nostalgia.
In '05 and '06 when Palmer went to back-to-back Pro Bowls and the Bengals came within a missed field goal of going to back-to-back playoffs, they went 4.0 in 32 games (rounding off 3.95). Palmer backed up the first triple-digit passer rating in team history in '05 with a 94.1 in '06.
In the 20 games Palmer has played since, the Bengals are 7-13 and he has thrown 29 touchdowns and 24 interceptions for an 83.4 rating. The rush per carry in the last 20 Palmer games?
Not competent and unworthy of a contender.
A ground threat suddenly gives Palmer room to breathe. The best pass pro isn't two bookend tackles. It's an offense bookended by the ability to run and the ability to fake the run.
Forget all the other stats. The magic number is 4.2, Cincinnati's average per rush in '05 and .1 better than the 4.1 the Bengals averaged in the last three games of '06 that they lost to stay home in the postseason. Look at the category at the end of the year and if it reads "4.2," they'll have nine or 10 wins because the defense is much better than it was in '05 and '06.
Paul Brown has to be on the Mount Rushmore of NFL coaches.
With the Lakers' Phil Jackson winning his 10th title, he's being acclaimed by some as the greatest NBA coach of all time. Some even go beyond that and say the number 10 makes him the greatest pro coach ever.
But what about Brown?
From 1946 to 1955 he led Cleveland to 10 straight championship games in two leagues. Not only that, he founded two teams, the facemask, playbooks, the draw play, year-round coaching staffs, and the 40-yard dash while putting the word "Pro" in "Football." Three years after giving birth to the Bengals he coached them into the 1970 playoffs for the quickest postseason bid for an expansion team until the Jaguars and Panthers emerged in the '90s with an unlimited checkbook.
Who's to say it was so much easier back in the '40s and '50s? Brown had obstacles, too, such as changing leagues, and fighting everything from complacency to frozen fields. One era's hardships are another's luxuries.
Joining Brown on the Mount would have to be Vince Lombardi, Tony Dungy and Don Shula. Lombardi for helping the NFL surpass baseball in the '60s as the national pastime. Dungy for being a racial pioneer, first as an assistant coach and then as the first African-American head coach to win a pro football title. And Shula, because it was always said his chin belonged on Rushmore. The 328 wins over 33 years and two leagues don't hurt, either.
Someone is going to call Chad Ochocinco the next Kobe and I hope it's not me.
Two years ago, Kobe went on the same kind of trade-me-or-trade-me rant that The Ocho embarked on back in January 2008.
Two completely different guys coached by two completely different guys in two totally different sports. And while Kobe is the Lakers Trigger Man, the Bengals Trigger Man is Carson Ocho Nine-o.
But it does show how the passing of the calendar reflects the passing of emotions. Both sound at peace, so will Chad get a ring, too? With The Ocho saying the '09 Bengals are better on paper than the '05 version, he seems to feel they can win. He must have certainly figured out by now they're not giving him a new deal.
The Bengals desperately need to get a return on the investments in defensive ends Robert Geathers and Antwan Odom.
There are a lot of reasons why they didn't pursue former Cowboys sack ace Greg Ellis. The chief ones being the $15 million he was supposedly seeking for three years even though he turns 34 this season, a deal the Raiders apparently came close to matching when they signed him Monday.
But Geathers and Odom are Cincinnati's two richest players on defense and with all that money tied up in them, they not only have to play, they have to produce (i.e. get sacks). Even if the Bengals signed Ellis at the bargains they got for Tank Johnson and Roy Williams, he'd still be taking away their snaps. Throw in a very promising third-down pick in right end Michael Johnson, and how many of these guys can get on the field?
Marvin Lewis, indeed most head coaches and their staffs, detest the thought of playing rookies. Even just situationally. But Johnson's natural skills must be giving them second thoughts. It'd be tough for a defense that has all of 39 sacks the past two seasons to sit him on the bench to learn.
If you want to know what an old NFL offseason was like, check out what happens once the Bengals and the rest of the league turn out the lights after this weekend.
Well, the rookies are probably still going to grind for about another week in the weight room, but this week is pretty much going to be it until the middle of July.
The next three weeks or so are how the league used to be for five months before voluntary on-field workouts and structured offseason workouts became staples in the late '90s.
There could be some contract news before the Fourth of July. The Bengals have been known to sign one or two late-round draft picks late in June, but the norm is they don't start heating up talks until the 10 days or so before camp.
Those late deals won't take long. They are usually "slotted" by the deals of players drafted around them. Two agents of Bengals late-rounders said Monday they haven't yet heard from the club. But like one of them said, "I've called them because it's only going to take about three minutes. The guy in front of him is in and a couple right behind him are in. It won't take long."
Rookie SAM linebacker Rey Maualuga is going to be the most popular Bengals defensive player over the next decade.
It helps that he's the most recognizable, given the long hair, the tattoos and his high-profile career at USC.
Those are the reasons fans gravitate to him at community events, but he takes it to another level when he mingles, shakes hands, and signs autographs. He's like spring. He comes in like a lion and goes out a lamb.
And look who have been the most popular defenders the Bengals have had down through the years. Guys who were known as nasty, crazy intense, and big-time, blue-collar hitters like Tim Krumrie, David Fulcher and Jim LeClair. Maualuga looks to have the same DNA as their smashmouth descendant.