Time to get back at it after a great holiday weekend. I trust that, like me, you didn’t let the Bengals last bungle ruin your Thanksgiving. We have accepted that 2-14 or an accidental 3-13 is coming this year.
I’m normally not a pessimist, but I am really having trouble seeing much hope for the Bengals’ future. Their troubles are deep, but they are fixable. However, their current structure won’t allow them to be fixed. Let me juxtapose a couple of comments by former NFL players to explain why.
Following Vince Young’s hissy-fit in Tennessee, Merrill Hoge was asked to interpret Jeff Fisher saying “Vince is not our QB” and owner Bob McNair saying “Oh yes he is.” Answer: when a player knows that the owner will back him over the coach, the coach loses all control over that player. The player can simply go over the coach’s head. (Anyone else thinking about Chad’s stupid gold shoes right now?) Chaos settles into the locker room when certain players enjoy one set of rules while the rest have to live by another set.
Later, in a completely unrelated interview, Boomer was asked his opinion about the talented-yet-woeful Bengals. He cited a “detached” ownership… not detached from operations, but from good sense. He said that when a team is built on third, fourth, fifth chance guys, players know that they will get a sixth chance. Or seventh. Who cares how many.
Both comments go to the heart of who Mike Brown is as a person. You may recall the interview where Mike labelled himself a “redeemer”. Redemption is great at church, but it’s bad business. (Are you going to be happy working where your redeemer-boss lets certain guys get away with seemingly anything?) Mistakes are tolerated because they are forgiven too easily. When mistakes are tolerated, they multiply because there is no accountability.
I’m not blaming everything on Chad, but he is the epitome of this problem. How many of the other 31 NFL teams tolerate a player that wears a different color chin strap than the rest of the team every week? “But Beeker, what difference does the color of a chin strap make?” you ask. If it makes no difference, then why does Chad do it? Because he can. In New England, he can’t. In Pittsburgh, he can’t. In Indy or Philly or Chicago, he can’t. But in Cincinnati, because he is a favorite of Mike Brown, he can. So he does.
Another example: Chris Henry. We’ll never know for sure, but I believe that Mike was right that Chris had finally gotten his head on straight. But we flinched when Mike re-signed him, because Marvin had recently said more than once that Chris was not coming back. Instead of talking with Marvin behind the scenes and either heeding Marvin’s objections or managing the situation to let Marvin look like the one who made the decision, Mike just did what he wanted without regard. He made Marvin look like a puppet. People don’t respect puppets. Is it any wonder that players don’t seem to be listening to him right now?
I believe Marvin didn’t sign his extension offer because he wants control over things like this. And he should. But he isn’t getting it. Neither is the next head coach. Or the coach after that. That’s why I fear that the ’10s could be a repeat of the ’90s. Maybe Mike will attract a coach good enough to avoid 3-13 most years. But he won’t attract one good enough to make 10-6 the norm until he starts running his team less like a church camp and more like a professional organization. I doubt he can/will do that. Success will be the exception rather than the rule until he does.