Print and Go Back ESPN.com: SportsNation [Print without images]

Sunday, September 15, 2013
Updated: September 23, 12:26 PM ET
No. 96: Cincinnati Bengals

By Scott T. Miller
ESPN The Magazine

Last year's rank: 102
Title track: 98
Ownership: 102
Coaching: 81
Players: 82
Fan relations: 116
Affordability: 87
Stadium experience: 114
Bang for the buck: 26

Despite making back-to-back playoffs trips for the first time since 1982, Cincy again ranks as one of the worst franchises in sports (90th or worse for the seventh consecutive year). The constant, of course, is owner Mike Brown, who's sitting on the world's 42nd-most-valuable sports franchise ($871 million) according to Forbes, and yet is only now realizing the importance of, you know, spending some of that cash. Johnathan Joseph, Justin Smith, Takeo Spikes were all drafted by Brown, who's also the team's GM, but Joseph and Spikes were quickly shown the door after their rookie contracts ended. No wonder in 2011, with the team on the verge of the playoffs, Bengals fans didn't bother with the paper-sack-over-the-face routine and instead protested the old-fashioned way: by not showing up. That season, Cincy drew fewer than 42,000 fans to the 65,535-seat Paul Brown Stadium on three separate occasions. The ill will between owner and fan base hasn't cooled; it's just no longer smoldering on the verge of explosion. Brown's approval rating is 38 percent below the league average, according to our survey -- an improvement from last year (46 percent below average), but still predictably awful. Perhaps the recent signing of DT Geno Atkins to a five-year, $55 million extension will change that. Or perhaps Brown will let young studs A.J. Green and Andy Dalton walk when their rookie contracts expire after the 2014 season. Either way, as long as Brown is in the owner's suite, nothing short of a surprise Super Bowl run will get the Bengals out of Ultimate Standings purgatory.