The 1990 season.
That's the last time the Cincinnati Bengals won a playoff game. Fans have probably spent the past 20-plus years wondering whose fault that is. The players? The coaches? How about the owner?
The Bengals won their last playoff game on January 6, 1991 against the Houston Oilers, 41-14. Four days later on January 10, 1991, a new episode of "Cheers" aired where Woody Harrelson's character found a foosball table that was allegedly cursed. He was told bad things happened to people who used it. In the episode, one person got their hand stuck in the table, but by the end the foosball table was neither destroyed nor dealt with. It was simply forgotten about. Three days later, on January 13, the Bengals lost to the Los Angeles Raiders in the Divisional Round, 20-10. Cincinnati has never won a playoff game since.
So there you have it, Cincinnati. Woody Harrelson is the source of your woes. But until Woody takes a sledgehammer to a foosball table and ends the curse, you're on your own. Don't worry, though. There's plenty of reasons to be optimistic about 2015.
Catch Me If You Can
While Andy Dalton remains a polarizing figure at the quarterback position, Bengals fans have to be happy with the receiving corps they have on offense. A.J. Green is one of the best receivers in the game, hands down. Despite missing three games in 2014, Green still finished with his fourth-straight 1,000-yard season (second most to start a career).
But it was in Green's absence that the Bengals finally got a look at what third-year receiver Mohamed Sanu could really do. In the three games without Green, Sanu caught 18 passes for 299 yards and one touchdown, including two games where he had over 120 receiving yards (the first 100-plus games of his career).
Sanu's numbers dropped when Green returned, but I have a feeling offensive coordinator Hue Jackson will find a way to get Sanu more involved next season. Plus, you have Marvin Jones returning next year after he missed all of 2014 with an injury. Keep in mind this was a guy who caught 10 touchdowns back in 2013, his second season in the league. With three receivers standing 6-foot-2 or more, Cincinnati's passing attack next year should be fun to watch... even if you still have Andy Dalton.
Fortunately, the Bengals don't need to rely solely on Dalton's arm to carry their offense. Not with the talented young running backs they have in Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. Hill rushed for 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns (third most in the league), and finished the year with three-straight 100-yard games, including a memorable performance against the Denver Broncos in Week 16 that included an 85-yard touchdown run. Hill also became just the third rookie in NFL history with at least four games of 140-plus rushing yards, joining Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson and Curtis Martin. Not bad company to be in.
And don't forget about Giovani Bernard, who is a dual threat with his ability to run and catch passes out of the backfield. This young combo provided Cincinnati with an effective one-two punch and helped the Bengals' rushing offense go from 18th in 2013 to 6th in 2014. Couple that with the receiving corps and this offense could easily be in the top five in scoring next year... even if you still have Andy Dalton.
The Talented Mr. Lewis
I know a lot of people like to pile on Marvin Lewis because of his lack of postseason success, and I would, too, if I rooted for the Bengals. But you have to admit, the guy has helped turn your team around. After going 8-8 in his first two seasons in Cincinnati, Lewis guided the team to an 11-5 record in 2005 and a first place finish in the AFC North. It was Cincinnati's first winning season since 1990, which ironically was the last time they won a postseason game (right, Woody?).
I know, 2005 seems like ages ago, but look at his recent coaching record. Even after losing offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to head coaching jobs last year, Lewis still got 10 wins out of his team in 2014. It was the fourth time in the past six years the Bengals had 10 or more wins in a season, something they did only once in Lewis' first six years as head coach.
I know that regular season wins mean nothing unless you produce in the postseason, but Lewis is a good coach who has provided stability for this franchise. He's more than capable of guiding this team deep into the postseason, and with the talent they have up and down the roster, he'll eventually get that first playoff win... even if you still have Andy Dalton.
So get ready for 2015, Bengals fans. Postseason success seems imminent for you. You've got a great offense, a knowledgeable coach and a quarterback who... is a quarterback. Just to be safe, though, you should get Woody Harrelson to destroy a foosball table.
Colin J. Liotta is a Digital Features Editor at NFL.com. He's also a lover of comic books and abides by Dr. Egon Spengler's warning not to cross the streams. You can follow him on Twitter @TheSportsHero.