Bengals fans are very familiar with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, as his first job covering pro football was in 1984 in Cincinnati for the Cincinnati Enquirer. That was during the glory days of Bengals football, when the team routinely was competing for postseason berths and advancing to two Super Bowls in the 80s under the tutelage of owner Paul Brown. Brown had hung up his coaching hat long ago, but was still a primary figure amongst Bengals players, coaches, and fans alike. He was always present at practice, and his only desire and goal(unlike his son) was to make the Bengals the most competitive, successful team he could. He didn’t care about money, fame, or notoriety. As Al Davis once said, his mentality of football was, “Just win baby!”
Peter recounted today of a speech Brown once gave prior to the start of training camp in July of 1973, which was year six of the existence of the Bengals while Brown was still the head coach. The entire speech is too long to put on here, but here are some of the best points Brown made during the speech:
I want to emphasize, particularly to our new men, that this is not college football. You’re trying to make a pro team and the responsibility for doing so rests squarely with you. It’s honest, but I’m going to say this to you, it takes a lot of man, really. Rookies are treated just like veterans here. There’s no hazing. No differentiation whatsoever. A lot of our rookies are married men trying to make a living, same as the veterans. In a nutshell, it’s just all-out open competition to be one of the 40 to make it. Man to man. There’s no sugar-coating or pampering.
When we happen to single you out, once in a while when I say something to you in an open meeting like this, it isn’t done to hurt your feelings. I don’t want you to start feeling sorry for yourself. Be a man about your errors. Do something about it.
I want you to know that we’re not interested in people that just want a job and our money, just want to make the final cut and then sit down on us. When you play here, we expect you to be all out and be in the spirit of it, be a high-class person, play with a full heart and have a fun time doing it. This leads to winning. I can tell you that we will be successful in proportion to the caliber of people you are. Invariably, if you looked back at great teams, I won’t use our own, I could use the old Cleveland Browns, but in the same way I run into so many of the New York Giants when they were a great team. The Giffords and the guys of this nature that I see as life goes on. They become successful people. They’re sound winners and competitors are a special breed.
We’re not interested in developing radio or TV commentators or automobile insurance salesman while the season’s in progress. In the offseason, we’ll help you. It’s a pleasure to see you get a job and see you make good. While football is in session, we’re paying for you full time.
I really think that how you handle your money as a player reflects and is indicative of the kind of person you are. Invariably the guy that can’t handle his money is of low intelligence.