The widespread public perception of the Cincinnati Bengals franchise before its "Hard Knocks" appearance in 2009 was that of a laughingstock -- or worse.
The Bengals were riddled with player arrests during the previous three years. Team management was regarded as inept.
The on-field results were just as ugly. The Bengals slid from being the 2005 AFC North champions to a 4-11-1 record in 2008.
From the outside, the environment was so dismal that it seemed Cincinnati was setting itself up for further embarrassment by agreeing to have every second of its 2009 training camp documented by "Hard Knocks" cameras. Instead, the Bengals received the type of positive image makeover that is usually scripted on other reality television shows.
Cincinnati's coaching and personnel meetings were shown as being on par with those of the other teams previously featured on the HBO program. Bengals players responded by keeping their noses clean and enjoyed a spirited preseason. Cincinnati ultimately ...