It’s no secret that Bengals fans are fed up with the organization right now. After five straight years of first-round playoff exits, they’ve failed to make the postseason the past two years. The team seems to be headed in the wrong direction, and without much promise for a quick turnaround. Sprinkle in a handful of on- and off-the-field incidents and you’ve got a level of discontent in the fan base that’s at an all time high. Most feel that the majority of the blame falls with head coach Marvin Lewis, who’s failed to deliver a playoff victory after 15 seasons. For a brief moment this past season, it felt like change was finally on the way when reports surfaced that Marvin did not plan to return next year. That hope was short lived, however. Marvin came out and denied the reports the next day, and Mike Brown offered him a two-year extension after the season ended. For many fans, that was the last straw. Now the team’s leaders are faced with the task of replacing the fans that they’ve driven away. Luckily for them, there’s a massive college fan base just a couple hours up I-71, and they took some pretty obvious steps during the draft to tap into that fan base.
If you look at the moves the Bengals made this past weekend, it might be hard not to think that the organization is trying to draw in Buckeyes fans. And why not? They’re a passionate bunch that supports their team week in and week out, so that’s a huge potential boost in ticket and merchandise revenue for the Bengals. Still, the fact that the Bengals drafted a couple OSU players doesn’t really mean they’re trying to attract the Ohio State crowd. Those guys just happened to be the best available players that fit the team’s needs at the time. But there was one specific move that they didn’t make that made it pretty obvious that the Bengals are trying to lure Buckeyes fans down south: they decided not to draft/sign JT Barrett.Embed from Getty Images
Barrett is, statistically speaking, one of the most successful quarterbacks in Ohio State history. He holds a number of OSU and Big 10 records and amassed a 38-6 record as a starter. Still, Barrett was a polarizing figure for Buckeyes fans. Many felt like he took a step backward after his redshirt freshman year, which started out promising, but ended due to injury in the last week of the regular season. He was in the running for the Heisman at the time, but wound up watching his team in the playoffs from the sidelines with a broken leg. He was never quite able to consistently get back to that level of play again while at Ohio State. He showed flashes of it, but he went through spurts where he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn (or whatever cliche people use these days to describe an inaccurate QB). Some fans quickly turned on him, and every overthrow or interception was met with calls to bench Barrett and put in Haskins. (Sound familiar, Bengals fans?) After his epic performance in a comeback win against Penn State, many Barrett haters jumped back on the JT Bandwagon, only to jump off the following week after he struggled in a blowout loss to Iowa.
Personally, I never understood the hatred for Barrett. While some of the teams struggles did fall on his shoulders, a lot of blame could be pointed at his supporting cast and the offensive play calling. And even at his worst, I don’t think his play was bad enough to warrant benching. (And I would say the exact same thing about Dalton in Cincinnati). While I personally chose to ignore the JT-haters, some former-OSU-quarterbacks-turned-popular-college-football-analysts decided to fight with recruits on Twitter over it. To each his own, I guess.
All that being said, as a Buckeye and Bengal fan, I wouldn’t want JT in Cincinnati. I just don’t think he has the skill set to be a top-tier professional QB. I’d love to be wrong, but I don’t think I am. It’s probably for the best, too. I can’t imagine what would happen to the anti-Dalton Bengals fans who also happened to be anti-Barrett Buckeyes fans if both guys were on the same roster. We might literally see people’s heads explode trying to decide which QB they wanted to bench.