It’s yet to reach a level of consistency attained by the NFL’s perennial postseason inhabitants, but the Bengals have made an increasing effort in the past decade to become a team that regularly competes. After seasons upon seasons spent wasting away on the bottom rungs of the AFC standings, the franchise has managed to earn a considerable amount of respect during the Marvin Lewis era, no longer cast aside as an automatic win when they pop up on opposing schedules.
The next step, however, is to ascend beyond merely competing, striving for the designation of feared and formidable. Competing brings respect and occasional playoff berths. Fear brings Super Bowl aspirations. In a division where the Ravens appear to be aging rapidly and unsure of their offensive identity, and the Steelers are struggling to stay healthy, the Bengals must offer their best attempt at becoming the bully. As Paul Daugherty wrote earlier this week, the franchise is currently in a purgatory of talented mediocrity, with the final two games of this season set to reveal plenty about the true colors of this season’s squad specifically, and honestly, the franchise in general. The up-and-coming allotment is running thin. The time to seize could very well be now. And as difficult as it might be to recall the state of things so long ago, the Cincinnati Bengals have actually been the bully before.
On this day in 1989, Sam Wyche and Co. shellacked the Houston Oilers by a score of 61-7. The team—less than 12 months removed from its ’88 Super Bowl run—was a relative disappointment overall, finishing 8-8 in a strong AFC Central and missing the playoffs. But Wyche made a statement that Sunday, taking a two-by-four to the kneecaps of Oilers head coach and part-time hobbit impersonator Jerry Glanville, running up the score to comedic proportions.
“I just don’t like Jerry Glanville,” Wyche is quoted in the article. “I don’t like phonies, and I don’t think Jerry is a very genuine guy.”
That game feels like a lifetime ago (literally for me), but it’s as much a reminder of what the Bengals were as it is a beacon of what they could be. Sam Wyche knew what it meant to be the bully. The current Bengals aren’t there just yet, but the next two weeks could show the league whether or not they are heading in that direction. And if 23 years ago is the standard, the team has a lot to live up to.
Because if Sam Wyche has a milkshake, and Jerry Glanville has a milkshake…