Bengals' O-boss candid with hopes on putting 'laughingstock' past in past

CINCINNATI -- The Bengals want to retire the Queen City Bungles label once and for all.

As humorous as their mediocrity some two decades ago may have been to those outside Southwest Ohio, the current-day Bengals say they find nothing funny about the jokes that are still being cracked at their expense.

That said, they know the only way to silence the laughter is for them to win on the biggest stages.

"We're tired," offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said. "I'm tired of being the brunt of jokes. I'm tired of our organization being the brunt of jokes.

"I don't want to be the laughingstock of anything, and neither do those players."

Jackson spoke candidly to reporters following Wednesday's minicamp, saying he has seen how January's playoff loss at Indianapolis sent the franchise over the edge looking for solutions to its postseason woes.

Four straight years the Bengals have made it to the playoffs, and four straight years they have bowed out without recording a win.

"We get to the door, but we don't kick it in," Jackson said. "I'm tired of getting to the door. Let's go blow that son of a gun open and see what happens. ... Make sure that when you go to the door, though, that you go to the door the right way. You've got to come with the hammer. If you go to the door with whipped cream, that's a whole different deal.

"If you ain't coming with the hammer, you shouldn't even come."

The Bengals have been holding a lot of whipped cream in the past 25 seasons. That's how long it has been since they won a playoff game, a first-round win over the Oakland Raiders in January 1991.

Following that playoff appearance, Cincinnati rattled off five consecutive losing seasons. During those years the Bungles tag first surfaced. Only six times since 1990 have the Bengals finished a regular season with a winning record, causing the nickname to stick. Each of those six winning years has come in the past 10 seasons, and with Marvin Lewis serving as head coach.

"It's got to mean something to you when it doesn't go right. It's got to cut you to the core," Jackson said. "Last season cut me to the core, I promise you that, and I think it's cut a lot of people at the core."

How do the Bengals patch up those cuts? Win.

"You start getting playoff wins, you start earning respect around the league and the respect of the fans and the respect of the media," second-year running back Jeremy Hill said. "Until you do that then you won't get the respect you deserve. We know that."

Part of what Jackson and other coaches have tried to do the past two seasons to get the Bengals over their playoff hump has been to poke them into playing with even more passion and energy.

Jackson said he has started seeing it.

In the middle of Wednesday's practice, for example, defensive end Wallace Gilberry and offensive tackle Matthew O'Donnell briefly got tangled up during a full-team drill. It was hard to tell exactly how the skirmish began, but after Gilberry grabbed O'Donnell's face mask, the offensive lineman snuck in a few punches to Gilberry's side and midsection. Jackson applauded the fight because it was proof of the Bengals' growth.

"The competition and the grittiness that you've got to display and have as units is starting to show," Jackson said.