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Brown's ways OK now


All of a sudden, Mike Brown is a genius.

You remember Brown, of course. He's the president of the Cincinnati Bengals; the architect of 12 consecutive non-winning seasons. He's the man responsible for the worst record in sports over a 10-year period; the scapegoat for all that was bad about the Bengals.

They said he was cheap, but maybe he was just frugal. They said his system wouldn't work, but it worked just fine for his dad. They said that as long as he was the owner and boss of the Bengals, the team was doomed, but maybe they were wrong.

All of a sudden, there's nothing wrong with Brown's ways or with Brown's team. All of a sudden, Brown's team is the darling of the NFL.

So what changed? Did Brown all of a sudden decide he needed to come into the 21st century and begin spending money at the same break-neck pace as Dan Snyder? Did Brown decide that all of the people who said he needed to revamp his philosophy of scouting were right?

Answer no to each of the last two questions; same fiscally conservative Bengals, with the league's smallest scouting department. These are the same Bengals, who maintain Paul Brown's age-old practice of having the coaches do the scouting.

What's changed? That's easy. All of a sudden, Mike Brown found the right coach.

Marvin Lewis is the reason Brown is no longer the village idiot. If Brown is guilty of having made mistakes, it was that he hired bad coaches, but, hey, his father made that mistake, too. Paul Brown chose Bill "Tiger" Johnson over Bill Walsh in 1975, almost solely because Johnson was older and, therefore, had been a loyal assistant longer than Walsh had.

Look at the Bengals' coaches during their 12-year skid. David Shula started the whole mess with a 19-52-0 record. After he was fired in 1996, he literally disappeared from the face of football. Bruce Coslet was a "former Bengal" choice that was mostly about familiarity and friendship. You might say the same about Dick LeBeau. Most noteworthy is that Coslet and LeBeau began as interim coaches, then were retained because Brown went soft.

Some say all of that changed when the Bengals hired Lewis. Some say what really changed is that Brown's daughter, Katie Blackburn, got involved in the hiring process and she is to be credited with the selection of Lewis. Blackburn is second in charge to her dad and gaining in stature and power every day.

Otherwise, nothing about the Bengals has changed. It's the same team with the same uniforms and with the same old-school ownership. The Bengals are also a roster of players that is basically the same group that finished last season.

All of a sudden, Jon Kitna is a hot quarterback. All of a sudden, the Bengals have drafted well. All of a sudden, the Bengals' way is the right way.

An exaggeration of the truth? Sure it is. Just as it was an exaggeration to say the Bengals were losing because they didn't spend money as wastefully as the other franchises.

They just didn't have the right coach.

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