Q: If you could take any player from Bengals history and put him on the current roster, if the player is in their prime, and consider the players we already have on the team right now, who do you take?
--Joe, Niagara Falls, NY
JOE: Great question and the answer is in honor of Jerry Sullivan, one of the nation's great sports columnists from your neck of the woods for The Buffalo News.
I would have to flip the 20th anniversary AFC championship commemorative coin between middle linebacker Bill Bergey and defensive end Coy Bacon.
You're not going to help this offense too much by going into the archives. Many of the franchise's greatest performers are already on it, ranging from Carson Palmer and Willie Anderson to Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
Even if Johnson doesn't show up, the offense has more bullets than the defense, but a Pro Bowler like Bergey (1969) teamed next to a No. 1 pick in Keith Rivers would be exactly what this play-making starved unit needs.
And this is no shot at Dhani Jones. He'll give you a solid day's work and this is just fantasy football.
Of course, it's hard to leave Bacon on the bench with his 22 sacks in 1976. Throw him in there with the Bengals' emerging young cornerbacks and that sounds like a Top 5 defense waiting to happen. In fact, with Bacon rushing and the two greatest corners in club history—Kenny Riley and Lemar Parrish—covering, the Bengals finished fifth in defense while going 10-4.
It shows you that defense does, indeed, win championships. The Bengals didn't make the playoffs that season, but they had one of their best years ever even though the offense finished a middle-of-the-road 15th. Flip the rankings around, as they have the last 20 years or so, and it's hard to go .500.
Listen, I'd love to have quarterback Boomer Esiason's leadership, left tackle Anthony Munoz's once-in-a-generation greatness, tight end Rodney Holman's versatility, the knowledge of Blair Bush and Rich Braham at center and Parrish's Hall of Fame punt returns.
But that's not the question.
What one guy from the past do you need the most to put the '08 team over the top?
Flip the coin.
Bergey or Bacon.
Q: A lot of fans seem to be down on Eric Ghiaciuc, primarily due to the half dozen times during last year when it seems like he was just blown up on a play. I generally tape the Bengals games, and looked at a couple of the times he was beaten. Both times he was going one on one with a very good nose tackle, both times the nose tackle was slanting to the side the run was going, and both times the nose tackle got a great jump on the snap. Maybe Ghiaciuc could have called a different blocking scheme, but I do not see where he is getting physically dominated. The two times I looked at him getting beat, it was due more to a great jump and slanting the direction of the run. Your thoughts on Ghiaciuc and what the Bengals coaches think of him?
--Chuck, Florence, KY
CHUCK: Your view would seem to be in line with the coaches. They are sticking with him and that's a big reason why. They don't think he's repeatedly physically dominated, particularly if you match him up with other AFC North centers.
But there's no question he's got to get better. There's no question he's a bit on the hot seat. And there's no question he's going to have an impact on if they run the ball better.
But when head coach Marvin Lewis called him out at the combine back in February, he was talking more about Ghiaciuc's ability to grasp the game mentally and then be able to convey it to his teammates.
Physically, they love what he does. They don't think many centers can approach athletically his movement in space. He's a different player than Rich Braham, their long-time center who became one of the NFL's most underrated players with strength and smarts.
While Braham was tremendous as a brute anchor, Ghiaciuc can get to the second level with his quickness. Like you, they don't think he's been blown up more than the next guy.
It's interesting that the first center taken in the Ghiaciuc Draft (2005), Mississippi's Chris Spencer, still hasn't settled down in Seattle. He has been hampered by shoulder problems, but he also hasn't taken charge of the line the way they thought he would and some people out there are saying this is a make-or-break year for him.
They've already moved 38-year-old guard Chris Gray behind Spencer in case he continues to struggle. The Bengals certainly don't appear to have reached that point with Ghiaciuc. The backup battle looks to be a spirited scrum between youngsters Dan Santucci and Kyle Cook with a combined two NFL games.
Q: What do you think it would take to get Jason Taylor away from Miami? I know the Bengals can't make the trade after signing Odom, but if we could ... he would be the playmaker for the next year or two that we need. I say we could trade a second-round pick or maybe Andrews and still come out ahead. I'm pretty sure you are going to say, "Why trade away young talent for an aging player?" But I still say franchising Andrews was the worst decision made in the offseason. Under no circumstances should a player be franchised if he is not an impact player NOW, but that's a whole different argument.
--Allen, Columbus, OH
ALLEN: I see that Taylor is planning on playing just one more year. I don't think you can give up a guy like Andrews that is going to be a starter for the next five years or so and probably more for a guy that might give you 10 sacks once.
Between his salary and how much you'd have to give up (a starter or at bottom, a second-rounder), would Taylor be worth it for one year or even two? Granted, a 12-sack year from him could put this defense over the top, but who would you have to cut and who/what would you have to give up?
If Taylor was 29, I'd be all over it. But he's 33 with one eye on and both feet in Hollywood, so I'm not so sure.
Of course, in an ideal world they would have reached a long-term deal with Andrews. And they tried for a year and half before tagging him. Not an easy guy to let walk.
I would argue that he's an impact player. He started 11 games at right tackle in a year the Bengals set the franchise record for allowing the fewest sacks. Plus, he has played both guard spots. In the Carson Palmer era, you don't throw away offensive linemen like that. At least not until all options are played out.