It could have been so different for the Cincinnati Bengals last season if their players had just kept their composure in that infamous wild card game at home to Pittsburgh.
Shall we recap? Sorry Bengals fans, but in case you need reminding:
The game was seemingly sealed with the Bengals 16-15 up. The Steelers backup quarterback Landry Jones threw a bad interception, but the Bengals fumbled the ball right back as they were trying to run out the clock.
Ben Roethlisberger came back in the game and, though his arm appeared to be hindered, led the Steelers down to the Bengals’ 47-yard line with 22 seconds remaining after a 12-yard completion on fourth-and-3 to Antonio Brown. That’s when the Bengals committed two penalties that will live in infamy.
Vontaze Burfict laid a malicious, head-hunting hit on Brown, thus handing the Steelers a free 15 yards. Then cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones gave the Steelers another 15 with a personal foul. Now at the 17-yard line, Chris Boswell easily booted a chip-shot game-winning field goal to advance the Steelers.
It’s been a long offseason for the Bengals and the players will be desperate to get their first preseason game under their belts when they host the Minnesota Vikings tonight.
Cincy drafted well in spring. William Jackson III, the athletic CB from the University of Houston, has been highly praised by Bengals coaching staff this summer. Expect to see Jackson line up on special teams at some point, but he’s going to have to earn that spot, “it’s almost like becoming a freshman again, he’s (Will) got to work his way up” said Special Teams Coordinator Darrin Simmons in an interview with KB & Dubs on the 5thDownUK podcast.
“We’ve got some veteran guys here who aren’t going to let him just come in here and take their jobs,” added Simmons, “he’s going to have to earn that spot and we’ve been very successful.”
Simmons is aware that his rookie CB didn’t play much special teams in college but he told us that he’s going to be ready for it now.
The Bengals’ coach is in his 14th season leading special teams, and for the fourth straight season in 2016, he carries the title of Special Teams Coordinator.
Simmons is a farmer’s son from south west Kansas and, despite the riches of professional football, that’s his favourite place to unwind. “I go back home to my parents’ farm and I help my dad with the wheat harvest,” said Simmons.
We spoke to him before OTAs finished and asked him how he spends his vacation before the intensity of training camp and the new season kicks in. “I view being a coach in the NFL as a gift. It’s not something that’s continuously given, I have to earn that so I always feel that I have to outwork the other coaches that I go against.”
Darrin Simmons has built one of the strongest special teams in the league, but he remains humble, “I can never sit back and enjoy the position I’m in because I always feel that there’s someone after that position.” It’s that winning mentality that makes him successful. He aspires to one day become a head coach himself, but for now he’s committed to bringing success to Cincinnati, “It keeps me going (success), it fuels me, it makes me feel like I have to keep ahead of everyone else.”
But for five weeks of the year he goes home to Elkhart in Kansas and does the things he did as a child, harvesting wheat. “It’s really neat. It’s fun; it’s what I grew up doing so it’s what I know.”
“I can go back there, it’s a vacation for us and I never think about football. I just think about getting that wheat cut before there’s any kind of storm,” added Simmons.
Now fully rested he’ll be hoping the Bengals will hit the ground running in a tough AFC North to prevent the storm clouds from circling over the Paul Brown Stadium.