Candid Collinsworth Likes Bengals Direction

Nobody can say that Cris Collinsworth doesn’t do his homework.

The three-time Pro Bowler and 13-time Emmy Award winner won’t broadcast a Bengals game until October 21st when Cincinnati hosts Pittsburgh on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, and yet Collinsworth was studying Bengals tape just a few days ago as part of his offseason preparation.

“I just got finished watching the playoff game against Houston and they had real opportunities in that game,” Cris told me this week on ESPN 1530.  “They had a back fall down out of the backfield on a little pick play that may have gone for a touchdown – there were just some little things or they could have gone on (in the playoffs).  Then they would have played Baltimore – a team they know very well – and who knows what would have happened out there.”

The Bengals only scored one touchdown in their playoff loss to the Texans, and Andy Dalton was intercepted three times, but Collinsworth came away impressed by the Red Rifle.

“The big question mark about him was his arm strength and how he couldn’t throw the ball that far,” said Collinsworth.  “So I put on the playoff game from last year and about 10 plays into the tape, he throws a ball like 65 yards in the air.  I replayed it because I was thinking that my math was wrong, but when I looked again it was 62 yards and he overthrew A.J. Green on a play over the top.  So I was like, ‘Where does all that talk come from?’”

Like Collinsworth, Dalton was a second round draft pick by Cincinnati who went to the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

“What he does really well is orchestrate the Jon Gruden-slash-Jay Gruden offense in a way that is pretty darn impressive,” said Collinsworth.  “Most rookies are not that accurate and not that good at making quick decisions.  But he got the ball out of his hands and he looks like an NFL player when he’s on the field.  And he adds that stabilizing force.  I don’t think that I’ve ever even met him, but he seems like a rock-solid, Kenny Anderson kind of guy that you’re going to be able to count on.  I don’t know if it was the fact that he wore #14 or not, but he really reminded me a lot of Kenny Anderson.  He has the understanding that it’s his job not to give up the sack and I thought that he did a really good job of it.”

Collinsworth has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the NFL’s most candid analysts, so Bengals fans will be encouraged to know that he’s optimistic about the future of the organization.

“I’m a believer in Marvin first of all,” Cris told me.  “I think the Bengals have finally eliminated the revolving door thing at the head coaching position and they’ve kind of been rowing the boat in the same direction for a little while.  Mike Zimmer is a tremendous defensive coordinator and I thought the find of the year last year was Jay Gruden.  For Jay Gruden to come in with a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton and a rookie receiver in A.J. Green and a lot of uncertainty and zero expectations a year ago and make the playoffs – I thought that was one of the great untold stories from around the league.  Of course, they got knocked out in the first round of the playoffs, but if they hadn’t, I think people would have taken a deeper look at what everybody was predicting for the Bengals at the beginning of the year and just how much they overcame and how good they were by seasons end.

“The thing that I like about them is that while they have some colorful characters, they’re not over-the-top anymore.  I think that, to some extent, the great teams that you see have a way of humbling themselves.  If you look at the teams that are so consistently on top – the Steelers, the Patriots – some of these teams just do a great job of showing up for work every day, getting the job done, not really caring about who gets all of the attention, and playing as a team.  I think to some extent, they had some addition by subtraction last year.  Even though they didn’t have a lot of experience on the field, I just felt that they were in it together in a much larger way then they’ve been in the past.”

It resulted in a playoff game for the Bengals last year, and that means a “home game” for the Northern Kentucky resident this October.

“We’re so excited about it for a couple of reasons,” Cris said.  “One, I get a chance to stay home which is pretty rare, and two, just the fact that the Bengals were back in the playoffs and look like they have a very talented young team.  We’re all kind of pumped up about seeing them on national television.”

Cris will definitely be prepared for it.

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