The numbers match success. The team the Bengals beat in the AFC title game, the Chiefs, were ranked first. The Rams, who beat the Bengals in the Super Bowl, were fifth. The Bills, another playoff team, were second. The Ravens, a game ahead of the Bengals in the AFC North heading into December, finished last in adjusted games lost while losing their last six.
And yet Boese says the biggest part of the offseason program is probably more about intangibles than aerobics.
“We’re very mindful of the long grind of the season and we will proceed accordingly,” Boese says. “We’re trying to re-establish the chemistry we had last year. Just getting the guys back around each other in the locker room and starting to build that camaraderie is the main focus in the offseason.”
Boese runs the nerve center of the team. His predecessor, Chip Morton, used to call a team’s weight room, “The Boiler Room.” It’s where you can gauge a team’s heart and mind and Boese could tell something special might be brewing before the magic of the last two months.
About mid-season he noticed guys coming into his office early on the Tuesday off day, sipping coffee and talking about how their wives had got together. Or he’d hear guys talking about grabbing a burger together after one of those early Fridays. Or maybe he’d look over from his office and see ten guys shooting baskets after practice.
He believes that chemistry began to bubble last May and June, when the Bengals were one of the few teams in the league that had virtually perfect attendance for the voluntaries. Boese senses it is because Taylor’s deft feel for the modern player produced a regimen with the proper work load.
“Zac’s philosophy on practice and how we do things is extremely intelligent,” Boese says. “I think our players understand that. It’s different in places where it’s not the way it is here. The trust factor. They know what we’ve got going. They know when they come back here we’re not going to run them into the ground. Those days are done.”
Think back to 2019, Taylor’s first spring. They had all three phases, but no Joe Burrow, D.J. Reader, Vonn Bell, Mike Hilton, Tee Higgins, Trey Hendrickson, Ja’Marr Chase …
“I don’t expect our guys to be very far off where they should be. You saw it last year, you saw the high locker room character,” Boese says. “Look at what we did last spring and that’s a testament to our players, our leaders. Guys like Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd, Jessie Bates, Sam Hubbard, D.J., Vonn, Burrow. The list goes on.”