A Defense of Bengals Owner Mike Brown


Jun 11, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown (left) walks with quarterback Andy Dalton (14) during minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Brown has been a magnet for criticism with Cincinnati Bengals fans since he assumed leadership of the team in 1991. He has been ridiculed for various reasons: for being too cheap with free agency, procuring a team friendly deal with Hamilton County and meddling in player personnel decisions while desperately trying to be an icon like his father. Mr. Brown even has a fan site dedicated to his perceived ineptitude.

As a life-long Bengals fan, I have heard all of these critiques as well as countless others. In fact, I have levied some of these same complaints myself towards the Bengals owner. Taking emotion out of the equation, is Mike Brown really all that bad? Over the past 15 years, we have seen signs of Brown adapting his ways to becoming a less hands-on owner as well as showing his compassionate side.

Nov 6, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still (75) walks off the field after the game against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium. Browns defeated the Bengals 24-3. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Devon Still story has been discussed nationally as the feel good story from the 2014-2015 season. The Bengals kept Still on the practice squad roster for healthcare benefits, despite Still’s understood inability to completely focus on football. Still’s numbers were less than inspiring when added to the active roster, registering 19 combined tackles in 2014. The Bengals are an NFL franchise, they are not in the business for charity cases. Yet, Mike Brown and the Bengals decided to re-sign Still for the 2015 season.

While the Bengals are one of the few teams who do not have a General Manager, Duke Tobin has taken on a decision-making role as the Director of Player Personnel. He sets the draft board, in conjunction with coach Marvin Lewis, instead of years past where Brown might have had his heart set on a player who isn’t needed on the team. The Bengals still do not have the same number of scouts as other teams, but based on the last five years, the lack of scouts hasn’t hurt them. Lewis has helped change the culture and made Cincinnati a popular destination for players, which has rarely occurred in the past 45 years of the Bengals’ existence.

Finally, Marvin Lewis’ one-year extension that runs through the 2016 season has caused many in Bengaldom to groan. While Lewis has not led the Bengals to a playoff victory, he has directed the team to a 100-89-2 record in his 12 years at the helm. From my perspective, Marvin has been instrumental in changing the culture of the team as well as turning a laughingstock franchise into a perennial playoff participant. Every Bengals fan is desperate for a victory in the playoffs, but personally, I do believe Lewis has earned the right to come back and finish the job.

Let’s recap the transformation of Mike Brown: he has become compassionate with certain player situations; he has allowed a non-Brown family member to be an important decision-maker in the drafting process; he has sustained stability by not making a coaching change in 12 years. Finally, he has handed Katie Blackburn, his daughter, control of the day-to-day operations.

What is the cause for this colossal change of heart? At some point, Mike Brown finally realized running his team the same way, day-to-day, would not create a new result. Listen, a fraction of the Cincinnati audience will not change their minds regarding Mike Brown; he will always be the factor holding the Bengals back from greater heights. But just maybe, we should give him some credit. He will never be Paul Brown, but being an improved Mike Brown is okay by me.

Next: 2015 NFL Draft: Marvin Lewis Faces A Choice

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