Open letter to Mike Brown

Mark Figley - Guest Columnist

Dear Mike Brown:

While some teams enjoyed making thethe playoffs, long-time fans of the Bengals are left with thoughts of LSU QB Joe Burrow wearing Bengal stripes in 2020 to help ease the pain of 2019. Even a season-ending victory over the upstate rival Browns to finish off a 2-14 campaign would have left your father, Paul Brown, feeling less than inspired. As you well know, he brought the American Football League franchise to Cincinnati in 1967; serving as both its coach (1968-1975) and general manager (1968-1991) in leading the team to an AFC Central Division title in 1970 during its third year in existence, and two other playoff appearances as well. He was also the team’s president up to his death in 1991; a position you have since held. In comparison, his teams were clearly better as a glorified expansion team than most Bengal teams you have been responsible for.

In addition, your dad had a long and distinguished coaching career; one that included stops at Massillon Washington High School, Ohio State and with the Cleveland Browns. He brought many innovations to the game of football too: game film to scout opponents, full-time assistant coaches, the modern face mask, the practice squad and the breaking of the color barrier for black players. Unlike you, he brought a wealth of football knowledge which translated to the field of play. In truth, Paul Brown forgot more about the game in his 45 years of coaching than you have ever known.

Unfortunately, simply coming from a football family with your reputation for being strict and controlling (like your dad), and frugal to a fault, has not helped you instill a recipe of consistent success with the Bengals. And, although your father could still rely somewhat on his extensive football success of the past to adapt to a dramatically changing game, the same cannot be said for you.

From 1968-1991, Paul Brown was intimately involved with the Bengals. During those years, the team reached the Super Bowl twice, had 11 winning seasons and recorded an overall record of 174-181-1; certainly a mixed bag over the course of 24 seasons. You have been at the helm for some 28 seasons since assuming full team control in 1992. During this dismal time period, the “Bungles” have lost 7 playoff games without a win, not sniffed a Super Bowl, had only 7 winning seasons and performed to a record of 185-260-3. This is called clear and consistent regression.

Prior to Marvin Lewis’ 16 seasons of coaching mediocrity (131-122-3 record), Bengal fans endured your other choices of head coaches; Dave Shula (19-52), Bruce Coslet (21-39) and Dick LeBeau (12-33). Zak Taylor’s 2-14 record after one season has put him behind the eight ball to say the least. Yet through it all, you still refuse to hire a general manager; preferring to believe that you have the mistaken credentials for the job.

Need more proof that a real general manager is needed? The Bengals have always seemingly been opposed to trades. This could not have been made more obvious than during this past season’s open trading period when the Bengals made not one deal in looking to the future. The word inside was why would the Bengals choose to “help” another team? News flash! Trades actually exist to improve both teams. And the dirty little secret is, the Bengals help other teams win every time they take the field.

In addition, under your leadership, Cincinnati has historically failed to put sufficient emphasis on scouting, upgrade itself through free agency or realize that success starts with a strong offensive line. The evidence is easy to see. Since 1992, only Willie Anderson, Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler have qualified as successful OL draft selections. Instead, picks have been wasted on such illustrious names as QB David Klingler, DT “Big Daddy” Wilkinson, RB Ki-Jana Carter, QB Akili Smith and RB Chris Perry. And while ignoring potential new free agent signees, the Bengals have been all too willing to let their own quality players sign elsewhere ie. the aforementioned Whitworth and Zeitler, DB Johnathan Joseph, WR Marvin Jones and WR Mohamed Sanu.

Last, but not least, the Bengals have done an abysmal job of honoring their past glory and the players who have contributed to it. This blame falls firmly on your shoulders as well. While many teams have a “Ring of Honor” to highlight their stars of the past, the Bengals have nothing. Why not honor such greats as Bob Trumpy, Ken “the Rattler” Riley, Lemar Parrish, Kenny Anderson, Isaac Curtis, Reggie Williams, Eddie Edwards, Louis Breeden, Tim Krumrie, Boomer Esiason, Corey Dillon or the Bengals lone HOFer Anthony Munoz (to whom you once referred as a “big brown burrito” during contract negotiations)? To add insult to injury, the Bengals have only retired the uniform number 54 of center Bob Johnson; the first player drafted in team history. Shame on you! These facts speak volumes about your lack of respect for those who once donned a Cincinnati uniform.

Face it Mike; other than the cool $274.3 million in revenue sharing the Bengals received in 2018, this overall state of disarray has reached such depths as to make the solution obvious. Do the right thing and sell the team to someone who has a true plan to restore a successful NFL franchise in Cincinnati. Not only would this help preserve the once-proud legacy left by your Hall of Fame father, but put an end to the ruination of his dream.

Mark Figley

Guest Columnist

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