Oklahomans should adopt Bengals
From the Norman High hero who's their coach, to several players with state ties, to the franchise's quite tortured history, Cincinnati an easy team to get behind
It’s the NFL playoffs and you need a team, or maybe another team.
Heck, you may need two other teams, three total, one for each day, because that’s how long the first round’s going to take.
If you’re a Sooner fan, you probably like the Cardinals on Monday because you’re rooting for Kyler Murray. Unless “Heaven Can Wait” is your favorite movie, or football came on your radar in the 70s, when the Rams had yet to move to Anaheim, much less Missouri, and they were just so cool and you’ve never forgotten it, so you’re pulling for them.
Sunday, you’re probably a Cowboy fan, or pulling for the Chiefs. Or, maybe, in honor of Lee Roy Selmon, the Bucs.
Even in that world, you still need a team on Saturday, when the Bengals play the Raiders in the afternoon and the Patriots meet the Bills in the evening.
Or maybe you’re back where we began and need only one team, one squad upon which to take a flier and get excited.
Go with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The only NFL team with a deeper Oklahoma connection is the Ravens, but you can’t take them.
You can’t take them because you should never take them, having abandoned Cleveland way back when, and you really can’t take them because they’re not in the playoffs.
So, the Bengals.
In the name of Oklahoma pride, go with them.
Cincinnati claims a trio of Sooners, one Cowboy and their head coach, if you didn’t know, starred at Norman High School, playing for the great Butch Peters.
Samaje Perine, may be the most underrated player in the history of OU football, certainly the most underrated running back, and he’s still in the NFL, looking no older than the day he arrived in Norman, which is to say he looks about 38, though he’s only 26.
He’s in Cincinnati for the second time, where he’s turned 118 carries the last two seasons into 547 yards, which calculates into a shiny 4.6 average. He’s also caught 38 passes the last two seasons, 27 this year.
The dawn of the 2019 college season, in honor of 125 years of Sooner football, I put together a list of the top 125 players OU history.
Perine was the fourth running back, No. 18 overall, behind No. 5 Greg Pruitt, No. 9 Billy Sims and No. 10 Joe Washington and way, way, way out in front of No. 62 Adrian Peterson.
Peterson’s the only one headed to Canton, yes, but nobody ran for more yards in Sooner history than Perine — 4,122 in three seasons — he remains a solid pro and now he’s in the playoffs.
Former Sooner Joe Mixon is a Bengal, too, and has become one of the game’s best backs, this season running for 1,205 yards and catching for 314, career highs both, making him the No. 11 all-purpose-yards gainer in the league. All told, he’s run for more than 4,500 yards and caught for more than 1,200 in five NFL seasons, all in Cincinnati.
One of the most controversial players in Sooner history thanks to an awful incident at a Campus Corner sandwich shop before he’d ever played a game, his NFL career has gone off without incident, unless you want to count all those yards from scrimmage, his 41 touchdowns or the six fumbles he’s incurred over 1,275 touches as incidents.
The last Sooner, Jordan Evans, went on the injured reserve list in October following a left knee injury. Prior to that, he’d played in each of the Bengals’ five games and made five tackles.
Before Cincinnati took him in the sixth round of the 2017 draft, Evans led Norman North to the 2012 Class 6A state title game, before playing four seasons at linebacker for OU, putting up a senior year that included 9 1/2 tackles for loss, covering 98 yards in losses and four interceptions that led to 145 return yards.
The Cowboy is Tre Flowers, who’s what they call a good story.
Waived during the season by the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2018 draft, Seattle, Cincinnati picked him up, he’s played in 11 games since and, last Sunday, got his first start with his new team.
Now he’s in the playoffs.
Finally, the coach.
Zac Taylor was a star at Norman High, spent a redshirt season at Wake Forest and, after a coaching change, left the ACC for Butler (Kan.) Community College, where he took the Grizzlies to the junior college national championship game.
In 2005, he showed up at Nebraska, playing for former Raiders coach Bill Callahan. His second and final season in Lincoln, he earned Big 12 offensive player of the year honors.
His father in law is Mike Sherman, the former Packers and Texas A&M head coach, a connection that surely helped him into the NFL coaching fraternity, but Taylor has certainly proved himself this season, his third in Cincinnati, where his win total has gone from 2 to 4 to 10.
Tennessee Titan coach Mike Vrabel (-185) is the betting favorite to be named coach of the year in the NFL this season. Taylor (+250) is next.
The Bengals are a good story, too.
They’re in the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and haven’t won a playoff game since Jan. 6, 1991, 31 years and six presidents ago.
There’s still time to jump on the bandwagon.