Offensive linemen often say the biggest compliment of their play during a game is going unnoticed.
A massive brick in a wall surrounding the quarterback. Solid. Essential but easily forgotten. If the TV announces say your name, the thinking follows, it's almost always for something you did wrong.
In that context, Bengals guard Mike Jordan experienced the most horrific kind of horror for an O-lineman in Week 11 2020 against the Washington Football Team. Not only did Jordan get bulldozed by Jonathan Allen, but the guard also crunched the pass rusher into the left knee of Joe Burrow.
Season over for the No. 1 overall pick.
"I took it really personal," Jordan told The Athletic's Paul Dehner Jr. "It took me about a week to get out of my own head."
Jordan and Burrow had known each other since 2016 when the offensive lineman joined Ohio State, where the QB was a backup. They reunited last year in Cincy.
"First thing I did was I apologized to Joe," Jordan told Dehner. "I told him he was not going to hear any more words from me. Just actions. I can tell him I'm going to do better. He doesn't want to hear that. He wants to see it. I'll prove what I'm saying and my convictions this upcoming season. Not a whole lot of talking; I'm just going to show it."
For Jordon, the blown block that took out Burrow was the rancid cherry on top of a spoiled, rotten sundae. Against Washington, Jordan allowed a sack, five QB hits, three hurries and nine pressures, per Pro Football Focus. He was benched for the final four games of the season.
Jordan's struggles underscored a Bengals O-line that received heavy criticism last year for its poor play. His 35 pressures allowed were fourth-most among all guards last season, per PFF. The three players who gave up more each played in 16 games. Jordan took part in only 11.
Despite hearing the critics, the former fourth-round pick is only worried about Burrow's thoughts.
"He really just said thank you, I appreciate it," Jordan said of Burrow's reply. "He told me he loved me, and I told him I loved him too. There's always love between me and Joe Burrow. He's a great guy - hell of a guy. I just really don't have anything else to say to him; I just want to show him. That's all I want to do."
To turn his young career around, Jordan changed his diet this offseason and underwent vigorous workouts to be "a better version of myself."
The Bengals went into the offseason needing to upgrade the offensive line, including giving themselves an option at guard outside of Jordan. Cincy re-signed Quinton Spain, have Xavier Su'a-Filo returning from injury, and drafted Jackson Carman in the second round, who is expected to play inside as a rookie. The quartet is expected to battle for the two guard spots.
Entering Year 3, Jordan hasn't had the door closed on a return to the starting lineup. But the guard knows he needs to prove he can be consistent to win the job.
"Biggest lesson I have learned from last season was once a play happens, it is one play," Jordan said. "Whether you do great or whether you do bad, you have to be ready to move on because that's not what's important. What's important is the next one."
Jordan's most famous play in his NFL career thus far is the one that got Burrow hurt. The 23-year-old doesn't want that to define the rest of his career.
"A lot of people, they try to talk bad about me in the media and they don't really understand football at all," Jordan said. "They don't understand a lot went into that play. Besides that, I owe it to myself to become a better version of the player I was last year. That's what I have to do."
Still a young player, Jordan's career is at a crossroads. Either he'll bounce back from the dark depths and re-earn a starting gig on an improved line, or his career will wash away, and the lasting memory will be the play that ended with Joe Burrow writhing on the turf.