We are in the midst of one of my favorite times of the year: the Academy Awards Season! Watching “Manchester by the Sea” last night gave me extreme heartbreak and the idea for this piece. To get in the mood for Sunday, I am hosting the first ever Cincinnati Bengals Academy Awards. The season was a train wreck, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have some fun with it. Let’s get started!
Best Picture (Best Play)
There’s only one viable option for this category. While Brandon LaFell’s 86-yard TD against the Texans and Alex Erickson’s 84-yard punt return against the Steelers were beautiful, one play stands above the rest. The Bengals were struggling against the Browns in Week 7 and the Bengals had just been kicked out of FG with seconds remaining in the first half. Then A.J. Green came down with one of the greatest catches you’ll ever see on a hail mary.
Thanks to Jared Cook and Julian Edelman, the A.J. Green Hail Mary wasn’t the Catch of the Year. It was certainly the Bengals’ Play of the Year, though.
Best Lead Actor (Most Valuable Player)
As usual, this award goes to QB Andy Dalton. Even with the playoffs seemingly out of reach, Andy Dalton never gave up and willed his team to a couple of wins late in the season. Dalton threw for 18 TDs and over 4,000 yards. What makes this spectacular is that he did it without A.J. Green or Tyler Eifert for a large chunk of the season. Not only did he play well himself, but he put guys like Tyler Boyd and Cody Core in a position where they could prove themselves. That is what an MVP does.
Best Supporting Actor (Most Underrated)
This award goes to the player that contributed the most but doesn’t get the recognition that they deserve. Alex Erickson was this year’s Best Supporting Actor. Most of his contributions took place on special teams, which is why he isn’t often regarded as a key asset. However, Erickson proved time and again that he can put the Bengals in a position to shine. He returned 29 kickoffs for 840 yards. That’s almost 28 yards per return, largely thanks to his 84-yard return against the Steelers. As a rookie, that’s impressive. He could do big things in his future.
Best Director (Best Coach)
In a year where many fans were clamoring for coaching changes, this is hard to award to anybody. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and WR coach James Urban were solid, but they pale in comparison to the work that RB coach Kyle Caskey did. Caskey took Rex Burkhead and somehow got him to outshine Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. With Bernard’s torn ACL and Jeremy Hill’s poor performance, the Bengals needed someone to step up at RB. Enter Rex Burkhead. Caskey took nothing, and turned it into an effective running game late in the season. He saw that Burkhead was doing the work, and benched Hill so that he could stew on his poor performance. It is safe to say that Caskey’s job is secure.
Will next year’s Bengals Academy Awards be happier than this year’s? With Free Agency looming, it looks like it may be another disappointing season. We won’t know until we get there, though. For more Bengals and NFL coverage, stay tuned to the Armchair All-Americans.