How Joe Burrow created one of the biggest turn-a-round seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals!

Written by Thomas Restall.



Joe Burrow was drafted in 2020 to the Cincinnati Bengals in Round 1, Pick 1 from Louisiana State University (LSU). After his unbeaten season, breaking many college records in the process, and by beating teams that fans declared were unbeatable such as Alabama and Clemson. At the end of this remarkable season, Joe Burrow then went on to claim the Heisman Trophy by a landslide of nearly 2000 points. Moreover, Joe Burrow led LSU to the National Championship game where they blew out the Oklahoma Sooners 42-25, making LSU the NCAA Champions.

Many fans loved this draft choice as they finally thought that they had a franchise quarterback (QB) to help them reach the playoffs and maybe even the Super Bowl. However, that was not how his rookie season happened.

During his Week 11 game Joe Burrow suffered a terrible injury, he tore his ACL and MCL in his left knee, which meant he was out for the rest of the season and had to undergo surgery. At that point, the Bengal’s record was only 2-6-1 so the season wasn’t looking promising for the fans either. Cincinnati ended up finishing the season 4-11-1 not qualifying for any playoff contention.

And this is where the turn-a-round begins!

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

Ja’Marr Chase.

In the 2021 draft the Bengals drafted Ja’Marr Chase in Round 1, Pick 5 which reunites two former LSU teammates. This draft looked promising for the fans with many good draft selections being made by management. In Joe Burrow’s final season at LSU, where he smashed many records and led LSU to the NCAA Championship, his number 1 receiver was Ja’Marr Chase.

This partnership was so dominant in college football, hardly any defensive coaches had a solution to their combination. Being back together and on the biggest stage of all, they had no intention of slowing down. During Chase’s Rookie Season, he had 81 receptions which totalled to 1455 yards. Per target, he managed to average 11.4 yards and 85.6 yards a game. In addition to this, Ja’Marr Chase pulled in 13 touchdowns during the regular season. This amazing season from Ja’Marr Chase made him win the Rookie of the Year (RooY) award.

The worst thing for a Wide Receiver (WR) is transferring from a system that they’ve grown accustomed to and then changing to a more complex system when they reach the NFL. However, in this case for WR Ja’Marr Chase, this wouldn’t be an issue as he is now playing with the same Quarter Back (QB) that gave him glory in the College years. Ja’Marr slotted nicely in this team causing defensive players and coordinators many problems that often led to him being double-teamed which would free up other superstar WRs in man-to-man coverage, such as Tyler Boyd or Tee Higgins. Due to the connection Burrow and Chase already had, it led to a great dynamic in the Cincinnati dressing room and on the field. This was proven this season where Ja’Marr Chase went on to break many franchise records. This season Chase set the Bengals single-season receiving record passing Chad Johnson’s record. In the playoff game versus the Oakland Raiders Ja’Marr Chase also broke the Bengals Playoff Rookie receiving yards.

Outside Opinions. 

Many opposing teams’ fans are seeing this Cincinnati season as a one-off occurrence and deeming this a Honeymoon period or season. However, to their dismay this won’t be the case. This is because the offensive side of the team are still young and fresh. This is only Burrow’s second season and Chase’s first season. In addition to this, other superstar receivers such as Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins are both under 30 and still have many seasons in them, unless an injury prevents them from playing. Furthermore, this is Zac Taylors 2nd season as Head Coach for the Bengals, so he is still young himself and he bought one of the worst AFC teams to the Super Bowl. Also, Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator (OC) Brian Callahan has 7 years of coaching experience under his belt, but this is only his second season as offensive coordinator.  This young talent on the field and in management will allow this team to surpass their former reputation of being a poor team and fighting to not finish last in their division.

Only one thing that I can imagine that could cause the Cincinnati Bengals to have a poor start to the 2022/23 season is if they get the ‘Super Bowl hangover’ which has happened to teams in the past. But with how young this offense is, I just don’t see that as a possibility of happening. In addition to this some may argue that during the off-season, Defensive Coordinators may study the offense and plan to come up with alternate strategies to combat their effectiveness. But then again, this has a very slim chance of happening as the offense has too many superstars for you to neutralise them all.

Joe Burrow – One To Watch? 

In Joe Burrow’s first season, he proved why he will be a key person to watch and be wary of in the future, breaking many records. In the game against the Baltimore Ravens Joe Burrow made franchise history after completing 37 of 46 passes for 525 yards in the 41-21 victory. It was a new Bengals record for passing yards in a single game, including four touchdowns with no interceptions as they claimed a big AFC North win. The second year QB’s effort was the fourth most passing yards in a game in NFL history, and he also became the fourth player in NFL history to have 500 pass yards, four pass touchdowns and zero interceptions in a game.

During this season Burrow was also named PFC Comeback Player of the Year. He won this award because the Bengals’ star recovered from a left knee injury to throw for a franchise record 34 touchdowns and 4,611 yards. The 25-year-old led the NFL in completion percentage (70.4 percent) and yards per attempt (8.87). He was second in passer rating (108.3) in his 16 games (all starts).   The Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC North and made the playoffs for the first time since 2015. It was also the first time that they had got to the Super Bowl since 1989.

During his excellent comeback year, Joe Burrow was also a front runner for the NFL MVP award but that then went to Aaron Rodgers (Quarterback, Green Bay Packers). However, Joe Burrow still has an opportunity to win an MVP award if he manages to win the Super Bowl MVP award.

This turn-a-round season was such a great and spectacular sight because it was led by someone who could still be classed as a Rookie QB. The Cincinnati Bengals were one of the worst teams in the AFC and was considered a free win for many teams who intended to have playoff runs in that season. In Joe Burrow’s first season with the Bengals, they were still a poor team with them sitting at 2-6-1 when Joe got injured. They then finished that season 4-11-1 showing no life of any improvement. Joe Burrow then returned from injury and started the 2021/22 season showing signs of life and promise that the fans have been grasping for, for so long now. At their bye week the Cincinnati were resting with a record of 5-4. With 8 games remaining in the season after their bye week fans were beginning to wonder if playoffs were on the horizon. They then went on to finish the regular season with a 10-7 record winning the AFC North for the first time since 1988.

Rising Stars.  

After Joe Burrow’s rookie season didn’t go as expected due to the injury, many NFL analysts still rated Burrow highly and said that Cincinnati’s main focus should be protecting their young franchise QB. There were many doubts, with both fans and officials predicting them to have a 3-14 or 4-13 season with them playing the Browns, Ravens and Chiefs all in a row and predicted them losing all 3 games. But when they played those teams, they beat them all.  The analyst’s collective opinion was that the Cincinnati Bengals would be bottom of the AFC North, but they turned that right around and finished first in the AFC North. Along with this, many analysts said that Joe Burrow would have a quiet year where he wouldn’t break any records or have his name in any of award talks. Yet again that wasn’t the case as Burrow was mentioned in NFL Regular Season Award and won PFC Comeback Player of the year award where many people predicted Dak Prescott would win the award. 

With all these NFL analysts doubting the Bengals and no one having trust or faith in them made this season turn-a-round even greater. They weren’t listed as a potential dark horse or a potential upset team, they were valued as a dead last team who would continue to get walked all over.

This season caught many fans by surprise as nobody expected a 2nd year QB who just returned from injury to be able to have a drastic impact on a bottom tier team this quickly.  Now that Burrow and co have reached Super Bowl LVI everyone is beginning to question whether they go the full distance and beat the LA Rams and if not, will they be able to make a deep playoff run next year and keep challenging for the AFC Championship?

Overall, I believe that due to the addition of Joe Burrow, this team will contest the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills for the AFC Championship in many seasons to come now. This is because their roster is filled with superstar potential across the field. Both sides of the play can make game changing plays, whether it’s scoring an incredibly fast touchdown or forcing a fumble or getting an interception. Due to the ability that this team has and considering how young they are, I see them being AFC Championship contenders and hopefully Super Bowl contenders for many seasons to come.



Photos from:

-Andy Lyons on Getty Images – Joe Burrow.

-Matthew Stockman on Getty Images – Ja’Maar Chase.

-Jean-Daniel Francoeur on Pexels – Football (Lead Image).

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