The Bengals Never Gave Joe Burrow a Chance
Joe Burrow carried the Cincinnati Bengals to within a hair of their first Super Bowl title. Despite all the adversity thrown at him, both mentally and physically, he almost got them across that finish line. In the end, Burrow was good enough, but those around him weren't. When you look at the team's roster, the Bengals never really gave their quarterback a chance.
Burrow was sacked seven times in Super Bowl LVI. He was also hit 11 times and hurried on countless other drop-backs. Despite that onslaught of pressure, he still completed 22 of 33 passes for 263 yards, with a touchdown and no interceptions. Imagine what the second-year quarterback could have done if he he'd had time to throw the ball.
If you include the playoffs, Burrow was sacked an insane 70 times this season. That was more than anyone else in the NFL by a mile -- Ryan Tannehill was second at 48. Cincinnati has neglected to protect its young quarterback since he entered the league, and in doing so, they have failed him.
The Bengals entered the 2021 NFL Draft in desperate need of offensive line help. They had arguably the league's worst line in 2020 and it wound up getting Burrow severely injured. So they approached the draft with Burrow recovering from major knee surgery and a terrible line. They spent a second-round pick on Clemson tackle Jackson Carman, a fourth-rounder on East Carolina guard D'Ante Smith and a sixth-rounder on Georgia center Trey Hill. All three were terrible as rookies.
The Bengals also added Riley Reiff on a one-year deal for $7.5 million. Reiff played in 12 games this season and an ankle injury put him out of the postseason. Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of 67.3 for the season, which is OK.
Left tackle Jonah Williams was solid this season, left guard Quinton Spain was decent as well. Meanwhile, center Trey Hopkins, Carman and right tackle Isaiah Prince were horrific. That line was exposed repeatedly this season. The Rams, led by Aaron Donald and Von Miller, completely dominated that group during the Super Bowl. It was so bad Burrow actually appeared to hurt his right knee on one of the sacks he suffered.
Burrow had the weapons on the outside, with Ja'Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, and he had a good running back in Joe Mixon. He even had a solid tight end in C.J. Uzomah. But weapons don't matter if you can't get the ball to them. The Rams won the Super Bowl, not by stopping Burrow's weapons, but by ensuring he didn't have the time to get them the ball.
Joe Burrow did everything he could to bring the Bengals a championship. In the end, he never had a chance because they neglected the first rule of running a franchise: protect your most valuable asset.