Sports Today: Is John Ross getting a raw deal from Marvin Lewis and the Bengals?

Finding things to talk about can be challenging when a team like the Bengals is struggling, but yesterday the matchup between Cincinnati's receivers and the Denver defensive backs provided a nice storyline everyone was willing to talk about.

Look for something more on that later today.

In the meantime, I've seen lots of people latch on to Marvin Lewis' comments on one of those receivers — John Ross.

"The thing that I told him — and it was great, because Andy (Dalton) was with him in the hallway — is that for Andy to throw him the football in that coverage, he should understand how the QB feels about him. The QB expects him to understand where he needs him to be. (Ross) let his teammates down, he let me down and he let Andy down. Because, maybe that ball isn't supposed to go there in that coverage, but if you do it right and run like he can run, that ball can go there and be a big play for us."

The point of this story was pretty clearly Lewis using a mistake by Ross as a teachable moment: “Hey, the quarterback actually went out of his way to get you the ball and you didn’t hold up your end.”

That’s a compliment to Ross, not a slam, yet somehow it is being received as, “Marvin Lewis is unfair to John Ross.”

I guess both could be true.

Maybe the coach is holding him to an impossible standard. Maybe that’s because he, like most people who know football and the Bengals roster, felt like taking a receiver in the first round last year made no sense so he’s in no hurry to rush the kid onto the field.

Is he intentionally hindering a talented young player’s development? That’s a stretch.

Make no mistake, the depth they have at receiver has played a role in Ross’ inability to get playing time, which further drives home the point that even if he was the best player available, they should not have taken him. In that case, the team should have traded down.

›› Marvin on John Ross: He let me down

Of course, it’s not Ross’ fault the Bengals drafted him, and I believe he’s doing everything he can to get on the field.

The Bengals want to make sure he’s ready before giving him a heavy workload.

Is that unfair? Only if Ross has actually earned playing time but is being denied it. I don’t think there’s any evidence that is true, but that’s one of those things only the people behind the scenes can really know.

Ross himself kind of hinted he isn’t sure why he hasn’t seen the field more, but he was also careful to avoid disrespecting anyone, including the coaches.

Go back to what Lewis said: Dalton threw the ball to Ross even though he probably shouldn’t have based on the coverage. That’s supposed to be a confidence booster, but it turned into a negative play because of something Ross admitted was a mistake on his part. So some disappointment there is only natural.

›› What the chances the Bengals play McCarron this season?

All that said, Ross was gracious in his time with reporters in the locker room. He fielded all sorts of questions about his situation, as he has earlier in the season, too.

He even gave the impression he was interested in talking football not merely tolerating the media’s presence at his locker until we got bored and walked away.

He comes across as a genuine and thoughtful guy. He’s engaging and bright. His confidence definitely seems shaken, but that’s life in, well, the real world as much as the NFL.

Bad stuff is gonna happen. Hopefully for his sake and the team’s he pulls through. And hopefully some tough love from Lewis will help in the long run.

Maybe that will pay off for the Bengals next coach…

Miami's hopes of making a bowl for a second straight season probably died last night with a 27-24 loss to Eastern Michigan

That dropped the RedHawks to 4-7 on the season with five of the losses coming by eight points or less.

(While six wins are the minimum for bowl eligibility, it is possible for 5-7 teams to make the postseason if there aren’t enough 6-6 teams available.)

Coach Chuck Martin's team was picked to finish second in the MAC East, but they will have to settle for no better than third...

Meanwhile, Toledo and Bowling Green played their traditional rivalry game last night, too. 

Were you aware? Me neither.

Thus it makes sense David Briggs, a columnist at The Toledo Blade, is crying foul against ESPN's mistreatment of MACtion.

What do you think?

Has television exposure (and revenue) outpaced its usefulness if the local fans are continually put out?

I suspect in the future as media consumption habits change, this won’t be a conundrum anymore, but it’s an interesting debate now — especially with the Big Ten debasing itself by agreeing to Friday night games…

Speaking of Friday night football, we're down to a handful of local teams still competing for a state championship, but congratulations are in order for those who earned all-district recognition this week.

In Division I, Ohio State verbal commit L’Christian “Blue” Smith of Wayne made the first team at wide receiver while national recruiting target Jackson Carman of Fairfield is part of the all-district offensive line.

Fairfield’s Malik Vann, a defensive end headed to play for Luke Fickell at Cincinnati next season, was named the defensive player of the year while Fairmont coach Dave Miller is the coach of the year after leading the Firebirds to the playoffs.

»FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE: Area teams in regional finals

Ra’veion Hargrove is the offensive player of the year in Division III while his coach at Trotwood-Madison, Jeff Graham, is the coach of the year, and teammate Kennedy Coates claimed defensive player of the year.

Sidney running back Isaiah Bowser somehow was overlooked as the offensive player of the year in DII, but it’s pretty clear Northwestern has a good one on the way after he rushed for 2,389 yards as a senior.

Many more locals were honored, so be sure to check out the full list here.

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