Wednesday, December 06, 2000

Bengals short-staffed on draft

Brown didn't add scouts he promised

By Tom Groeschen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Bengals (3-10) figure to draw their usual top-five NFL draft spot for April 2001. They also don't figure to expand the league's smallest scouting staff, meaning their draft again could be an adventure.

        The Bengals list an NFL-low six people in their player personnel department. Ev ery other team has at least nine personnel people; Indianapolis is tops with 19.

  The number of people in each NFL team's player personnel/football operations department, according to team media guides:
  • AFC: Indianapolis 19, New England 18, Baltimore 16, Seattle 15, Denver 15, Miami 14, Buffalo 14, Jacksonville 13, Kansas City 12, Cleveland 11, San Diego 11, Oakland 9, Pittsburgh 9, Tennessee 9, NY Jets 9, Cincinnati 6.
  • NFC: NY Giants 17, Dallas 16, Atlanta 16, Green Bay 16, Arizona 14, Carolina 13, Tampa Bay 13, St. Louis 13, Minnesota 12, Chicago 12, New Orleans 12, Washington 11, Detroit 10, Philadelphia 10, San Francisco 9.
        “They're continuing to pay the price for that,” draft analyst Jerry Jones said of the Bengals' small personnel staff. “If you don't scout well, you don't draft well.”

        Jones, a former Marie mont pharmacist who now lives in Georgia, publishes the annual Drugstore List of NFL prospects. Bengals founder Paul Brown used to let Jones sit in the team's draft-day war room, but now Jones wonders what's going on in there.

        “They need tackles and cornerbacks again,” Jones said. “When Paul Brown was there, he used to ask the same question on prospects: "Is he better than what we have?'”

        Conventional hindsight is that Paul Brown, an NFL Hall of Fame coach, usually knew. Since his death in 1991, the Bengals have the worst record in the NFL (46-111).

        Mike Brown, Paul's son and now team president, said after the 1999 season that he might hire perhaps two more scouts. He didn't.

        “We talked to some people, and it turned out that it didn't work out,” Brown said. “These are issues that we have revisited from time to time when we don't do well.”

        The Bengals' personnel department is led by senior vice president Pete Brown, who is Mike Brown's brother. Next in line is Mike's son, Paul H. Brown, who is vice president/personnel. Jim Lippincott is the director of pro/college personnel, with Duke Tobin and Frank Smouse listed as “scouts.” There is one secretary; some teams' personnel departments have two.

        Bengals coaches also are responsible for offseason scouting and have the most say on draft day.

        In the 20-20 rearview mirror, many decisions seem ill-advised.

        Take 1992, when the Bengals shocked America by taking quarterback David Klingler first. Everyone thought they'd take cornerback Troy Vincent, who eventually became a Pro Bowl player.

        Or 1995, when the Bengals could have had future Pro Bowl left tackle Tony Boselli but took running back Ki-Jana Carter. That was bad luck, because Carter was plagued by injuries. But still ...

        “It's a lot harder to find a good offensive tackle,” Jones said. “Boselli is worth a lot more, because running backs are easier to find.”

        Corey Dillon, for example. The Bengals took him in the second round in 1997, as the 43rd overall pick.

        More recently, the Bengals were criticized for taking quarterback Akili Smith instead of the New Orle ans' Saints offer of nine draft picks in 1999.

        Or how about bypassing Minnesota receiver Randy Moss in 1998? (Although the Bengals did get two good linebackers ahead of him in Takeo Spikes and Brian Simmons.)

        “We were not, for example, ignorant of Randy Moss,” Mike Brown said. “We were going to take Randy Moss or, at the time, first Spikes and then Simmons. We went the way we went.”

        Moss was drafted only 21st overall, apparently because of his questionable character. Perhaps everyone knew too much.

        “I would argue the things I've argued before,” Brown said. “If you compare the information we have with the information others have, it is comparable.”

        It seems the Bengals have a winner in Peter Warrick, the No.1 draftee in 2000. They also scored with Armegis Spearman, a free agent rookie linebacker who is the team's fourth-leading tackler. But No.2 draftee Mark Roman, No.3 Ron Dugans and No.4 Curtis Keaton can barely get onto the field, much less make the active roster each week.

        The Bengals may have as much “information” on college and free agent prospects, but perhaps not as much actual in-person, in-depth contact. And that goes back to the lack of bodies, with the Bengals' personnel department annually overworked.

        Any plans to add scouts for 2001?

        “We may,” Brown said. “It's something we talk about and review. But I would get back to telling you that after last year we did talk to some people, and it didn't materialize for different reasons.”

        In other words, probably not.


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