So says Fox’s John Czarnecki.
1. Mike Brown, Bengals owner — The Bengals have been striking out lately, and this is a franchise crying out for a solid football leader like a Polian or an A.J. Smith.
Yes, Duke Tobin (son of Bill Tobin, who built the 1980s Bears) puts together the team’s draft boards. But Brown makes too many of the decisions, frustrating coach Marvin Lewis, who is a loyal soldier. Carson Palmer is a bright spot, but don’t forget Akili Smith and Ki-Jana Carter. Yes, they have had bad luck with David Pollack (neck injury forced his retirement), but Bengals tend to take risky players like Odell Thurman.
The Bengals lead the league in drafted players no longer in the NFL. The coaching staff has way too much influence at times, a bad idea considering they are not on the road scouting and don’t always have good personnel judgments.
Look, there’s no defending a lot of Brown’s draft day decisions, but this is pretty weak sauce Czarnecki serves up. Akili Smith? That was 10 years ago, dude. Ki-Jana? Really? In order to prove Mike Brown is a poor drafter you have to go all the way back to 1995?
What about Levi Jones? Brown took nuclear fire over that pick, yet it turned out pretty well. And if Brown’s so bad, how to explain T.J. Houshmandzadeh?
We can play this game forever. The point is, Brown’s made his share of good, bad and blah picks. That’s the not the problem. The problem, as Mike Tanier wrote today, is that the Bengals run a shoestring operation that can’t do player development well. They’ve shown themselves capable of finding and developing later-round picks — Stacy Andrews is a recent example — but high draft picks, who come with natural talent, are left to their own devices and only blossom if they prove to be self-directed. This was the case for Chad Johnson, before he became Chad Ochocinco and quit sleeping on the couch at PBS in order to squeeze in more film study. On the other hand, you had Justin Smith, who was pretty much the same player from his rookie year forward.
This helps explain why the Bengals always seem to get more than expected out of the second day of the draft, but less than expected out of the first. As always, it comes down to the organization needing to professionalize and staff up to an NFL-caliber level. The draft doesn’t end on day 2. In fact, it’s just beginning.