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Can They 'Bungal' 0-16?

October 20, 2000

Things have gotten so bad in Cincinnati, where the NFL's losingest team of the 1990s has begun 2000 at 0-6, that Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was moved to issue a public apology after taking a tour of the Bengals' new stadium.

"Sometimes I wonder if it's me," Tagliabue joked about the Bengals' decade of decay. "Because before I arrived, when Pete Rozelle was the commissioner, this was a heck of a football team when I came in 1990. And they haven't won since. Sometimes I wonder if it's something I did."

Over the last 10 years, the Bengals are 43-107, going through four head coaches and 12 quarterbacks in the process. Already this season, Cincinnati has changed coaches--firing Bruce Coslet and replacing him with Dick LeBeau--and last week benched quarterback Akili Smith in place of Scott Mitchell.

Smith, a second-year pro, won his NFL debut against Cleveland last October but has since gone 0-9 in games he has started. Smith directed the Bengal offense through 89 possessions this season, resulting in only three touchdowns--one on an 80-yard run by Corey Dillon.

The other 86 possessions ended thusly:

Punts: 50 (33 were three-and-out).

Interceptions: 8.

Fumbles: 6.

Field goal attempts: 11 (five converted).

Fourth-down failures: 7.

Time expired: 4.

Since the league expanded its regular-season schedule to 16 games in 1978, no team has finished a season 0-16. Since 1978, the worst start by a team is 0-14, set by the 1980 New Orleans Saints, who finally defeated the New York Jets, by a point, in Game 15.

The Bengals are chasing history, but two imposing obstacles stand in the way.

They could win at Cleveland on Oct. 29, and they will have another chance at home against Arizona on Dec. 3.

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