Originally posted on Bloguin Best  |  Last updated 11/2/11

The Cincinnati Bengals' neanderthalic owner Mike Brown shuffles around in a cave strewn with excrement, bones and viscera, dressed in a gray and ragged pelt of some big striped cat, gnawing on the greasy thigh of a gray seahawk dead some three or four days now and starting to rot. He roots in his own filth, muttering and cackling triumphantly. Somehow, after a decade of sullen ambivalence, mischance and misfortune, everything is finally starting to go right.

The jokes about the Cincinnati Bengals are so old and well-worn now that their very name is its own punchline. They are the Tonya Harding of the NFL, a franchise whose second-tier talent is commingled with criminal mischief and humiliating ineptitude. Only the negligence of Brown prevented a wholesale housecleaning before now. When he finally got around to it he turned the NFL's conventional wisdom on its year -- keeping his coach and firing his players.

Chad Johnson (excuse me, Ochocinco) and Terrell Owens were told to hit the bricks, after combining for 1800 yards and 13 touchdowns. Carson Palmer, who threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns last year, was strongly encouraged to go to hell rather than receive a penny more for his services. And when top cornerback Jonathan Joseph came to collect a new paycheck, he found the office door closed.

Into these voids stepped young, cheap labor. If Brown couldn't win, he could at least make a profit, maybe buy himself a new pelt. Meanwhile, the coaching staff prepared to start two rookies at quarterback and wide receiver.

As Chase Stuart of the Fifth Down blog points out, there have been only two notable rookie QB-WR combos of the last twenty years: Tim Couch/Kevin Johnson for the rebooted Cleveland Browns in 1999, and Tony Banks/Eddie Kennson for the rerooted St Louis Rams in 1996. Both Couch and Banks were the first quarterbacks taken in their respective drafts. But again, Cincinnati reversed course, waiting on QB (Dalton was the fifth to come off the board) and going for the elite weapon at receiver instead.

This single decision might have changed the entire course of the Bengals' season, and the shape of the franchise for years to come.

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