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All The President's Men
11/30/00 by The Coroner - Guest Columnist

Mike Brown gets too much credit for the catastrophe known as the Cincinnati Bengals. The club's president has had plenty of help along the way. Contrary to notions about Brown, he does delegate responsibility for football and business operations. And he does it as poorly as one might expect. Without the aid of these men, Brown may not have reached and remained at such depth's of professional sports failure and repute.

Pete Brown. Mike's empty-suit brother has been involved with collegiate drafting since the team's inception. The club's senior vice president of player personnel immediately made his mark following Paul Brown's passing in 1991. Notorious for an embarrassing resume of defensive drafting, Pete has supervised the draft for now nine seasons. Not once in his tenure has the club drafted a defensive player named to the AFC All-Pro squad. Infamous high picks include such wastes as 1994 classmates Dan Wilkinson and Steve Shine, first and third round selections; the horrendous Reinard Wilson (#14 overall) pick of 1997; 1998's puzzling Artrell Hawkins (#43) decision and regrettable Corey Hall (#65) selection in 1999. On the offensive side, the Bengals burned picks on prominent busts David Klingler ('92) and Ki-Jana Carter ('95). Other early-round flameouts include Jeff Cothran ('94), Mel Tuten ('95) and Rod Payne ('97). Brown's philosophy gravitates towards combine camp results while straying from comprehensive regular-season game scouting. He enjoys clocking players on his own stopwatch. Mike's brother keeps a low profile and grants the media little access. You can't blame the guy.

Jim Lippincott. The Bengals Director of Pro/College Personnel made the improbable and inexplicable leap from high school athletic director (Cincinnati Moeller) to his current position. Partnering with Pete Brown in draft preparation and selection process, Lippincott has too earned failing grades. Joining the Brown's in disregard for thoroughness, Lippincott has burdened the club with irresponsible picks like Wilson, a low scorer on intelligence testing; Payne (#76), a reputed goof-off at U. of Michigan; and TE Marco Battaglia (#39 in '96), whose poor blocking skills avoided Bengal radar four years ago. Under Lippincott's charge, the Bengals have set lowly standards of finding middle- and late-round help. Since the 1995 draft, only these players, chosen in the fourth-round or lower, have become regular Cincinnati starters: Sam Shade ('95), Tom Tumulty ('96), Greg Myers ('96) and Rod Jones ('96). Lippincott's duties also extend to free agent evaluation and signing, another unproductive area. The club has thrown millions of dollars at mediocre free agents and fruitless waiver wire acquisitions. Tom Carter, Vaughn Booker and Tom Barndt are recent examples of filling in rather than filling up. Lippincott is way out of his league in the National Football League

Ray Horton. The former Bengal nickel back (of the 1980's) and present defensive backs coach garners mention for his impact (or lack thereof) as a coach and scout. Mike Brown's assistant coaches double as scouts, despite the fact that they miss collegiate games during the season. Alternatively, Horton et al. view highlight films and attend the combine. Horton is the squeakiest wheel when it comes to assistants in the war room. It's widely known that Horton not only stumped loudly for these major mistakes but also convinced the Brown's and Lippincott to grab them early. The Bengals stunned the NFL when Hawkins, not even an all-conference consideration out of the U. of Cincinnati, went in the '98 second round ahead of Patrick Surtain and Samari Rolle. Draft experts had rated Hawkins, now only a special teamer and nickel back, a fourth or fifth rounder. 1999 brought about third-round boo-boo Hall, forecasted no better than the sixth round. Like Hawkins, Hall, a safety, played himself out of the starting lineup with poor coverage and tackling skills. Mark Roman, whom Horton hopes to convert from college safety to pro corner, was yet another reach in round two of the 2000 draft. Despite glaring vulnerability in the defensive backfield, Roman has been active for only three of Cincy's 11 games this season (and only for special teams). Horton's results as a coach, too, are cause for alarm. He's failed to develop any of the draft picks taken during his seasons in Cincinnati. In fact Bengal corners play worse with time under Horton. Carter, Hawkins and even Ashley Ambrose demonstrated declining skills under Horton's charge, while Roman is so far behind he can't even get playing time at a corner spot. When one observes how Bengal corners play so far off opposing receivers and still often allow the reception, memories of Horton, the player, come to mind. Mainly a nickel back on the franchise's bend-but-not-break units in the late 80's, Horton, some may recall, was the beaten defender arriving too late for John Taylor's game-winning touchdown reception in Super Bowl XX111. 

Troy Blackburn. A Mike Brown man all the way. Son-in-law to the president, Blackburn is an attorney, knows nothing about football operations and is a relative (by marriage). Although arrogant by nature, he's no dummy. Blackburn oversaw the construction of Paul Brown Stadium. Among his credits, he helped convince Hamilton Co. Commissioners to toss in four valuable acres of riverfront property, adjacent to the west of PBS, for three Bengal practice field. Remember how public funds financed a first-class renovation of Spinney Field only several years? Today, those new practice fields prevent neighboring development such as restaurant and bars, a boon for PBS concessions business. Blackburn and his political allies also concealed this fact from voters, at least for a while: sales tax increases would also pay for all furnishings in the executive offices of the Cincinnati Bengals. And for Blackburn's latest act, he scammed season ticket buyers with a last-minute presentation of lesser seating positions to many Bengal patrons, who had completed license (PSL) payments for superior seat placements. The Hamilton Co. court system is now handling the ensuing lawsuits. 

With his consistently bad product on the field coupled with a smelly business reputation, Brown personifies a curious mixture of delusion, greed and shamelessness. Truly a miserable way to operate. And in this company, misery...loves company.
Disclaimer - The opinions expressed and implied here are those of the contributing fan columnist and may not be those of Fraidy.  Of course then again they probably are.

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