Scooter Hobbs column: Burrow has Cincy buzzing
Published 4:09 pm Friday, January 21, 2022
Joe Burrow seems to have done it again.
Around here, we’re familiar with the drill.
Been there. Seen that. Got the T-shirt, the trophy and saw the brief “Burreaux” name change and the cigar.
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Move in. Take over. And in short order you look up and he owns the place.
Burrow’s sneaky like that, seems to make a habit of it.
So now it’s Cincinnati, where the Bengals, one of the most traditionally hapless franchises in the NFL, suddenly has it in their heads that they’re going to the Super Bowl.
Blame it on Burrow.
And don’t put it past him.
If you’re looking for an instant culture changer, Burrow is your guy.
No need to recount his takeover of Louisiana and LSU. One day there will be a statute of him outside of Tiger Stadium, maybe of him tossing one across the parking lot toward Billy Cannon.
And with the Saints not in the NFL playoff picture, suddenly a lot of Tigers fans have changed their stripes to the Burrow Bengals.
Funny thing, but Burrow was warned — mostly in media missives — that Cincinnati with the No. 1 overall pick was the worst thing that could happen to him. Not that the NFL draft left him much say in the matter, but it was a franchise that didn’t care about winning, certainly didn’t seem committed to it.
He seems to have perked up their interest.
He’d also been warned that LSU was a quarterback graveyard.
Walked out of that gloom and doom with the Heisman Trophy and a fat victory cigar.
So, yes, Cincinnati, it’s OK to go ahead and dream — the story just seems to get better and better with this guy.
Don’t be surprised if he beats the No. 1 seed Tennessee Titans on Saturday. He seems to be at his best in the biggest games. Beat seven top-10 teams his senior year, two others his junior year.
It took LSU a year to order out for an offense that he could thrive in rather than the clunky thing that weighted him down to the junior-year test flight.
But once the Tigers figured it out — boom! — you had not just a national championship and a Hesiman Trophy, but arguably the greatest college team of all time, certainly the scariest offense.
But it wasn’t really true that he came out of nowhere. Nationally it made a good story. But those closer to the scene knew what they had.
They also knew — forget the accuracy, the toughness — they knew what he brought to the locker room, to the culture.
It wasn’t bad before he got to LSU, but he might have been the missing piece of the leadership puzzle. He walked into it softly, kept his mouth shut at first, but it didn’t take long before the whole team was gravitating toward him, believing in him.
Contrary to urban legend, the team knew what they had long before the last game as a junior when he got up off the deck of Fiesta Bowl from a blind-side cheap shot to destroy Central Florida.
And the LSU culture certainly hasn’t been the same since he left.
It seems a similar thing has already happened in Cincinnati — surely way ahead of even the Bengals’ most optimistic schedule.
I suspect the Bengals are benefiting from the Burrow charisma, his in-born confidence, best described as his “it” factor more than his raw talent.
But it all looks very familiar.
It hasn’t hurt that the Bengals this year reconnected him with his LSU buddy, wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
He’d caught 20 of Burrow’s 60 touchdown passes in that 2019 LSU season and this year broke the NFL rookie receiving yards record that had been set the previous year by another of Burrow’s LSU targets, Justin Jefferson.
But it was still a curious pick since the Bengals’ biggest problem was, and still is, protecting their quarterback.
It wouldn’t hurt to address that in the future, but it, too, follows the LSU pattern.
The LSU offensive line that Burrow set all those records with was OK. Kind of. Yet playing in front of Burrow with those offensive schemes, it won the Joe Moore Award as the nation’s best offensive line … which it certainly wasn’t.
Burrow has that kind of effect on people.
We’ve seen it down here before.
And a lot of Louisiana will be watching with interest Saturday.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org