You remember the 2008 Bengals, don’t you? Remarkably, that Cincinnati team was led by two quarterbacks still in the league: Carson Palmer started the first 4 games (all losses) before elbow issues caused him to shut things down for the rest of the year. From there, a young Ryan Fitzpatrick took over, leading the team to a 4-7-1 record the rest of the way.
Cincinnati had some talented weapons at wide receiver. T.J. Houshmandzadeh had led the NFL in receptions in 2007, and in 2008 he still had another 92 receptions. Chad Johnson had just come off his fifth straight Pro Bowl season, but the ’08 year was the beginning of the end for the man once known as Ochocinco. Chris Henry, who had been a big play receiver the past few years in Cincinnati, was reduced to a possession player in this offense in ’08.
The offensive coordinator was longtime coach Bob Bratkowski, who manned that role in Cincinnati from 2001 to 2010. But the 2008 season was very different. The Bengals averaged just 8.83 yards per completion, the single lowest output in NFL history. On a team with two longtime NFL quarterbacks and two Pro Bowl wide receivers, Cincinnati somehow couldn’t manage to push the ball down the field with any sort of consistency. The longest reception of the year was a 79-yard completion to… running back Cedric Benson! Johnson and Henry combined for 72 receptions, but none of them went for more than 26 yards.
So why am I bringing up the 2008 Bengals? Well, the 2017 Dolphins (through 5 games) and 2017 Ravens (through 6 games) are both averaging just 8.5 yards per completion. Yes, those gunslingers formerly known as Jay Cutler and Joe Flacco are running two of the most anemic passing attacks we have ever seen.
Here’s the breakdown on the Miami side:
For Baltimore, the outlook isn’t any prettier:
Early in the year and with small sample sizes, you would expect to see some historical outliers. And I imagine both the Ravens and Dolphins will finish the year with at least a 9.0 yards per completion average. But the fact that both are currently breaking the record for lowest YPC average in NFL history in late October is pretty telling. And if you can’t figure out what it’s telling, let me give a hint: chasing the 2008 Bengals isn’t a good thing.