Sunday, October 15, 2000

Brown embarrassed but steadfast

Owner says Bengals need better players, not GM

        I'm walking to Bengals president Mike Brown's office at Paul Brown Stadium, up the sun-splashed ramp, down the custom stone corridor, past the spacious executive offices with the large windows and panoramic views, and I'm thinking:

        “Please tell me you'll change. Do more than admit your team is awful. Offer more than stock apologies from The Lost Decade file. Don't say, "We need to do better.'”

        Hope springs infernal. Into Brown's corner office I go, with its floor-to-ceiling windows and postcard glimpse of city, suspension bridge and river. I'm thinking:

        “Maybe today's the day. A new day! The day Mike will say, "Because I'm not doing a good job running my team, I'm going to give the job to someone who might.'”

        I want to give Mike every opportunity to say that. Because we can wonder why the ballboys touch the football more than Peter Warrick. We can wonder if Akili Smith is falling face-first into The Klingler Zone. We can wonder when to start calling the L.A. Clippers “the Cincinnati Bengals of the NBA.”

        But that's not the point. Who is: Mike Brown. The Bengals will change when he says so.

        I talked to him Friday. Here's the conversation:

        PD: “When do you look at this situation and conclude that what you're doing isn't working?”

        MB: “It's obvious it isn't working.”

        PD: “What do you do about it?”

        MB: “We do what we can to improve it at this stage, in the middle of the year. We'll tinker with what we do on the field. Play new players, different players, probably earlier, probably more.”

        PD: “Do you ever plan on bringing in someone to help on the football side?”

        MB: “When I get to that point, I'll call you.”

        PD: “What is your objection?”

        MB: “I'm not going to launch into that one.”

        PD: “Would you have someone from outside your family ...”

        MB: “We're right back to the same question.”

        There you have it. Brown won't hire a football man. And he won't tell you why.

        PD: “Given the 10-year history here, do you see better times ahead, steering the same course?”

        MB: “I always feel it's going to come around. I think it will improve.”

        PD: “What makes you think that?”

        MB: “At some point, we have to get the mix of players who can make it work.”


        MB: “It's a failure we feel intensely. There's no way it can be rationalized.”

        PD: “If you feel it worse than the public, but it's persisted for so long with business as usual, why doesn't it make sense to change the way you do business?”

        MB: “I'm not going to delve into that.”

        PD: “You said you needed the new stadium to compete. When will you compete?”

        MB: “The stadium is a necessary piece, economically. If there were no new stadium, there would be no franchise in Cincinnati.”

        PD: “So you've fulfilled your civic obligation by sticking around.”

        MB: “We are financially viable. We are not competitive on the field. I have not come up with the right mix of players. Eventually, you come down to two things: Players and system. We have not succeeded with the players or the system we have.”

        PD: “Do you feel you have fulfilled your obligation to the fans and taxpayers?”

        MB: “We're keenly disappointed. We know we've fallen on our face. We're embarrassed. It gnaws at me. Have we failed this year? Yes.”

        PD: “We wouldn't be having this conversation if it were just this year.”

        MB: “Oh yes, we would. We've already had it. You make a good point.”

        PD: “But nothing's going to change.”

        MB: “You want change in the administration and the procedures we use. What I'm telling you is we have to come up with a mix of players and a system that works. How we get that is the issue.”

        PD: “Are you confident that, with the way you currently do business, you'll be able to pull it off?

        MB: “I think it will happen. But I fully understand why someone would question it.”

        PD: “Does (questioning) affect the way you do things?”

        MB: “Yes. Have I done what you wished I'd do, which is jump off the balcony here? I've restrained myself. It's like going to the dentist office.”

        PD: “It's like going to the dentist office every week for 10 years. And still eating sweets.”

        MB: “Do I see it that way? No.”

        PD: “How could you not see it that way?”

        MB: “I have said we have failed. If you want me to say it's like going to the dentist's office every day for 10 years, I'll say that, if it makes you happy. We're really just re-plowing the same ground.”

        Yes, we are. Week after year after decade.

        Are the Bengals, as currently managed, a lost cause?

        Judge for yourself.

        As for Mike Brown changing: Sisyphus had it easier rolling that boulder uphill.

        Call Paul Daugherty at (513) 768-8454 with your comments.


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