|Decade of Shame
1/7/01 by The Coroner - Guest Columnist
Mike Brown's decade of
disgrace ended almost like it began. While 1991 culminated with a 3-13
mark and the onset of the Dave Shula Era, Brown bookended the club's
10-year hiatus from competitiveness with a 4-12 finish. And yes, another
rookie head coach. Dick LeBeau became the league's oldest rookie coach at
63, when Brown tabbed him after Game Three.
Ten years ago, Brown made
Shula the league's youngest field boss at the time. Just like his
early days as Bengal boss, Brown remains strafed with quarterback
uncertainty, lots of mediocre players and fuzzy direction. He's been
running a team that's been lost for so long, yet Brown finds himself
in familiar territory. No playoff potential, no Monday night
appearances, no interested quality free agents and worst, no change at the
Since we really can't
look forward, let's look back and recall Brown's most bungling moments.
prominent blunder was becoming General Manager of the club. He
followed that up by remaining GM for nine more seasons. 2001 will be
his 11th. During that time, many puny teams have resurrected
themselves by bringing in seasoned football people, while Brown has
plodded along with a group too small and too incompetent to be called
a personnel department. Brown could've ended this madness and hired
either Tom Donahoe or John Butler. Alternatively, empty-suit brother
Pete and high school product Jim Lippincott head up a group of three
full-time scouts. Together, they've littered Bengal rosters with
Arena League talent for some time now. And they're all back for 2001.
The only silver
lining in passing on New Orleans' 1999 draft day offer was the club
screwing up just one pick, Akili Smith, the No. 3 overall choice
that day, rather than multiple choices. Had the Bungles traded for all
those Saints' present and future picks, Cincy would have even
more Artrell Hawkins' and Reinard Wilsons' signed to big
multi-year deals. Which means more overpriced, over-the-hill free
agents to replace them.
Passing on tackles
William Roaf and Tony Boselli. The Bengals could've had them with
their No. 1 picks in '93 and '95. Instead, Brown chose and held on to
John Copeland ('93), whose injuries and mediocrity have supported a
decade of poor defensive frontage. Ki-Jana Carter was chosen over
Boselli six years ago, which is one example of why Jacksonville and
the Bengals are whom they are. Roaf and Boselli share double-digit Pro
Bowl appearances. Softies Copeland and Carter made their marks in
Bengal training rooms.
Keeping Bruce Coslet
and his staff after the '99 season. Brown thought that the
club's improvement from 1998's 3-13 to 4-12 in '99 meant the coaching
staff had things turned around. Coslet's season and a half momentum
died when Boomer Esiason retired after the '97 campaign.
Losing Esiason to MNF.
Certainly Esiason wasn't the long-term solution after 14 years in the
league, but the Bengals' only consistent quality football coincided
with Boomer's five starts at the end of the '97 season. A strong one-
or two-year offer would've kept Esiason around a little longer, while
pre-empting the fruitless Neil O'Donnell signing.
Hiring Shula. This
began the trend of bone-headed Brown decisions. Even worse, Shula was
given one of the NFL's most undermanned rosters of all time then asked
to develope run and shoot QB David Klingler without an offensive line.
Fans and media call Shula the worst of the Bengal coaches but in the
end, Coslet lost as much with more talent.
Wilson. Let's see, Wilson was an undersized down lineman asked to move
to linebacker in the ill-conceived zone blitz (blame that one on
Coslet). He also scored extremely low in the intelligence tests given
to collegiate prospects. The Bungles could've alternatively had
either Kenny Holmes or Renaldo Wynn with that No. 1 pick. Four years
later, lots of money was wasted with almost zero production. Don't be
surprised, if Brown re-signs him anyway.
Tie: drafting Artrell
Hawkins ('98), Marco Battaglia ('96), Corey Hall ('99) and Rod Payne
('97). Well, okay, Hawkins has the edge, but you get the picture. Too
many stupid, early picks. Instead of Hawkins, the Bungles
could've had All-Pro Samari Rolle, who like Holmes was taken by a club
(Tennessee) with a real front office.
Keeping Carl Pickens
around so long. Besides, Corey Dillon, Pickens was the only great
Bengal pick in the 90's, but he overstayed his welcome. A smart GM
would've dropped this guy at least a year earlier and found a decent
replacement. Coslet gets an assist here because he convinced Brown to
re-sign him before the '99 season.
The zone blitz
defense. A dishonorable mention indeed with Brown believing (along
with Coslet and LeBeau) that this club could build a defense
resemblant of the great Steeler D's. They even thought it could be
done with a group of mediocre and crummy players. Brilliant!
Keeping Ray Horton
around. Brown blew his chance a couple of years ago when the DB's
coach tried to leave. Bad player, bad personnel evaluator and very bad
teacher. Big Play Ray is a perfect fit in this organization.
Cutting Lee Johnson.
Mike couldn't handle the truth when Johnson spoke out against this
lousy organization during the '98 season. Brown's stupid ego cost him
a good punter, good holder and good teammate.
Losing Sam Shade.
Most teams could've replaced Shade, a good run support safety with
little coverage skill. But the Bungles, led by personnel imbeciles
Lippincott and Horton, chose Corey Hall in the third round, despite
draft guru consensus that Hall was no better than a fifth-round
prospect. By the way, Shade was the only decent player that the
Bengals drafted and lost to free agency in the 90's. Says volumes,
The next coroner column
will feature: all the 2001 free agents who won't visit Cincinnati in
February/ March; Lippincott's Top Five local bakeries; how Horton
rates the UC Bearcat cornerbacks; and Bengal scouts (all three) hit the
trail early this year.
|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.