Sunday, December 22, 2002
Mike Martin's letter
Mike Martin was a wide receiver and kickoff-punt returner for the Bengals from 1983-89. He is now the head football and basketball coach at Taft High School and a regular panelist on Channel 9's Sports of All Sorts.
Taft H.S. head coach Mike Martin.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
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First, let me start by saying I would love nothing more than to see this Bengals franchise back on top of the football world again and competing for a Super Bowl ring.
If winning a Super Bowl is not the No. 1 priority for this franchise, then I think you are doing this team and this city an injustice. I often hear people say, "As long as Mike Brown is making a profit, he can live with losing." This would be OK if your business was in a field other than entertainment.
The sole purpose of your business should be to entertain your customers by winning football games.
Money and success will come with winning.
If living with losing is OK, even if you are making money, I think you're in the wrong business. (Honestly, I really don't think you feel this way.)
So, let's see how together we can change the mindset of the franchise from not just trying to be competitive but to winning Super Bowls.
Did you notice I said "we"?
I still feel like I'm a part of the Cincinnati Bengals. Despite every negative thing I may have said about your organization over the years, I will always be a former Bengal until the day I die. I want to see this team win. But it often gets frustrating when I see how you're going about achieving the goal of winning.
So let's start at the top.
Mike, there have been a number of poor decisions since you have been at the helm of this franchise.
Your first major decision was to draft QB David Klingler instead of cornerback Troy Vincent. Mr. Klingler is out of the league and Mr. Vincent is still playing and has been to a number of Pro Bowls. If this was just a gut feeling on your part, then your stomach must have been very upset that day. If you were persuaded to make that pick by someone on your staff, then that person should no longer be evaluating talent.
Putting Mr. Klingler in that offense, at the time, was like putting a square peg into a round hole. You wanted a run-and-shoot quarterback to be a drop-back passer - bad fit.
Another major mistake was the hiring of Dave Shula as head coach.
You probably felt that having the Shula bloodline would be an automatic success. But no matter who you are or who your father is, respect is something that is earned, not given. Dave never earned it. The draft selection of defensive end John Copeland over All Pro left tackle Willie Roaf was another poor choice. Again, I question whether this was a gut feeling or merely persuasion.
Either way, the wrong decision was made. These are just a few examples of poor decision-making by your franchise.
Let's look at this year's team. There were two major decisions made that were supposed to help.
One of them is sitting on the bench getting paid (quarterback Gus Frerotte), and the other is no longer on the team and still getting paid (Michael Westbrook). Consequently, millions of dollars were wasted, due to poor decision-making, once again.
I don't want to sound redundant, but there has been at least 12 years of consistently poor decision-making by the GM or someone within your front office.
Mike, if I see it, I know you must see it.
Recently, I heard talk that you're possibly looking into hiring a GM. If this rumor is true, I don't think you can lose. If the team wins or loses games, even after hiring a new GM, there will no longer be finger pointing at you. All of the pressure would be on the GM. But don't hire one if you are not willing to give him total control. Let a GM come in, clean house, and get this organization and this city back to the way it used to be.
The Cincinnati Bengals should, once again, put fear in their opponents every time they hit the field. And the city of Cincinnati could, also, once again, love its football team. Mike, I know you're loyal to your staff and like to surround yourself with close family members and friends, but it's been over a decade of losing. It's time to change the people around you by getting rid of them or it's time to change their way of thinking.
When people ask me if I think this franchise will ever put a competitive football team on the field again, my answer is, "I hope not."
A winning football team is the only one I want to see. Mike, I hope you feel the same way!
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