Friday, November 19, 1999

Bengals see changes coming

Coslet, players don't know what they'll be

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        There are still six games left, but the Bengals already sense changes are going to envelop the club Jan.3, 2000, the day after this season ends.

        “I would think the way we've played thus far, there will be changes. That's obvious,” kicker Doug Pelfrey said Thursday. “Who is it? Personnel? Coaches? Management? Who knows?”

        With the Bengals poised to move into Paul Brown Stadium next season, the players know changes are coming. But who? What? When? Where? Bengals President Mike Brown won't say, refusing to take the focus off the rest of the season.

        “One thing we do know is we're moving into a new stadium and that will show a lot of people that there is hope here,” said rookie quarterback Akili Smith. “We'll have a lot more bounce in our step. We'll want to show up to work and get better. So hopefully that stadium will change a lot of attitudes.”

        Even head coach Bruce Coslet knows and understands the unspoken buzz. Barring a miracle finish from his 1-9 team, he won't be invited back for the final year of his deal. Everyone knows the club has to be at least competitive for him to keep his job after last season's 3-13 record.

        The locker room knows Coslet's job is on the line.

        “You don't need a degree in common sense to know that. That was already in the air before the season,” said linebacker Takeo Spikes. “It's all part of the game. If you don't produce as a player, it's here today, gone tomorrow. Even faster for a player than a coach these days.”

        There's not the same under current in the locker room pushing for a coaching change as there was in the final years of the Dave Shula regime. The players believe Coslet is a good coach, but they also know the Bengals are 4-26 in their last 30 exhibition and regular-season games.

        “When you're not successful year in and year out, changes are expected,” said safety Myron Bell. “That's the nature of the business. (If Coslet is fired), that's sad. The only thing he can do is prepare us for each Sunday, and it's up to us to do the game plan. But if we don't, it comes back on him. It's not fair, but it's the nature of the business. Somebody has to take the blame. Honestly, I think Bruce is a hell of a coach.”

        But the players also know the problems go beyond coaching. They are stuck in a spin cycle whirring every Sunday: Come out trying too hard, then make a mistake that puts them behind, then unable to fight the here-we-go-agains.

        “We're in a funk. I want to break out of it before going into next year,” Spikes said. “So at least going into the offseason we know what we can do. Let's get out of it now. Get some more veteran guys in here. I'm sure a lot of changes will be made. Just feed off that. (More veterans) wouldn't hurt at all.”

        As Smith said, “If there's a time to change, this is it. New stadium. New millennium. We're a young team getting older and better. I think Bruce is doing a good job, we just haven't been executing.”

        Smith is the Bengals' offense of the future and they have built their 21st century defense around brilliant second-year inside linebackers, Spikes and Brian Simmons.

        “We don't know what's going to happen, and that's more reason not to worry about it,” Simmons said. “Right now all we need to worry about is getting better.”


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