What Washington must learn from Cincinnati's rapid rebuild


 With the Bengals making a scintillating playoff run that's now going to include a Super Bowl appearance, those who are concerned with Washington are asking this question: If Cincinnati can go from awful to awesome so quickly, what's taking Ron Rivera so long?

It's a convenient talking point for frustrated followers of the Burgundy and Gold, and there's certainly a slice of validity in the inquiry, too.

For the most part, however, comparing the two franchises just isn't practical, and there's one AFC Championship comeback-leading, victory cigar-smoking reason why:

Two years ago, the Bengals drafted Joe Burrow. Washington, meanwhile, didn't draft Joe Burrow two years ago and therefore will be searching for someone like him for an undetermined amount of time.

And while it's really that simple and the story could just end right here, let's chat for a bit more about this.

In no way is this post meant to defend Rivera, because the claim he's made in the past about an organization needing three to five years to truly turn things around is outdated. The NFL doesn't have patience for that, and Washington fans definitely don't have patience for that. 

So, in that respect, pointing to Cincy is a fair exercise, as that team has now triumphed in 13 regular-season and postseason games this year after winning a total of 12 contests in its previous three campaigns.


Yet the real takeaway from the Bengals' success shouldn't merely be that they got really good really fast. Instead, it should be how they got really good really fast, and again, that is due to landing Burrow (and, yes, that Ja'Marr Chase dude has also been helpful).

In the coming months, Washington will have all sorts of roads to explore when it comes to identifying its next QB, including the trade market, free agency, using its first-round pick or using a later-round selection (or even a combination of those methods).

To put it bluntly, though, Rivera and his fellow decision makers need to rule out any strategy that'll bring them a slight upgrade (someone like Carson Wentz or Jimmy Garoppolo, for instance) or a decent draft prospect (such as Carson Strong or Desmond Ridder). A minor improvement can't be the goal anymore.

If these playoffs have taught anyone anything, it's that supreme talent at quarterback matters most, and Burrow isn't the lone example.

Cincinnati's Super Bowl counterpart, the Rams, parted with legit draft capital in order to secure Matt Stafford, who has immediately rewarded Los Angeles for that move. Then there was that captivating AFC Divisional battle between the Chiefs and the Bills, where Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen played the position perfectly.

Of course, Washington doesn't have the future layup that the Bengals did when they owned the No. 1 choice in the draft and could write Burrow's name down and then wait around until they were on the clock.

If Rivera wants a veteran, he'll have to be aggressive, and if he wants a rookie, he'll have to scout for one incredibly well. A stressful few months are on the horizon.

But to ascend like Cincinnati, Washington must push for a passer like Cincinnati's, which will require a major investment one way or another. Acquiring that trajectory-shifting force is wildly hard, but Rivera hasn't seriously attempted to do so through his two years in charge. He better change that this offseason.