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Decade of Shame
1/7/01 by The Coroner - Guest Columnist

Mike Brown's decade of disgrace ended almost like it began. While 1991 culminated with a 3-13 mark and the onset of the Dave Shula Era, Brown bookended the club's 10-year hiatus from competitiveness with a 4-12 finish. And yes, another rookie head coach. Dick LeBeau became the league's oldest rookie coach at 63, when Brown tabbed him after Game Three. 

Ten years ago, Brown made Shula the league's youngest field boss at the time.  Just like his early days as Bengal boss,  Brown remains strafed with quarterback uncertainty, lots of mediocre players and fuzzy direction. He's been running a team that's been lost for so long,  yet Brown finds himself in familiar territory.  No playoff potential, no Monday night appearances, no interested quality free agents and worst, no change at the top.

Since we really can't look forward, let's look back and recall Brown's most bungling moments.

  • Brown's most prominent blunder was becoming General Manager of the club. He followed that up by remaining GM for nine more seasons. 2001 will be his 11th. During that time, many puny teams have resurrected themselves by bringing in seasoned football people, while Brown has plodded along with a group too small and too incompetent to be called a personnel department. Brown could've ended this madness and hired either Tom Donahoe or John Butler. Alternatively, empty-suit brother Pete and high school product Jim Lippincott head up a group of three full-time scouts.  Together, they've littered Bengal rosters with Arena League talent for some time now. And they're all back for 2001.

  • The only silver lining in passing on New Orleans' 1999 draft day offer was the club screwing up just one pick, Akili Smith, the No. 3  overall choice that day, rather than multiple choices. Had the Bungles traded for all those Saints' present and future picks,  Cincy would have even more Artrell Hawkins'  and Reinard Wilsons' signed to big multi-year deals. Which means more overpriced, over-the-hill free agents to replace them.

  • Passing on tackles William Roaf and Tony Boselli. The Bengals could've had them with their No. 1 picks in '93 and '95. Instead, Brown chose and held on to John Copeland ('93), whose injuries and mediocrity have supported a decade of poor defensive frontage. Ki-Jana Carter was chosen over Boselli six years ago, which is one example of why Jacksonville and the Bengals are whom they are. Roaf and Boselli share double-digit Pro Bowl appearances. Softies Copeland and Carter made their marks in Bengal training rooms.

  • Keeping Bruce Coslet and his staff after the '99 season.  Brown thought that the club's improvement from 1998's 3-13 to 4-12 in '99 meant the coaching staff had things turned around. Coslet's season and a half momentum died when Boomer Esiason retired after the '97 campaign.

  • Losing Esiason to MNF. Certainly Esiason wasn't the long-term solution after 14 years in the league, but the Bengals' only consistent quality football coincided with Boomer's five starts at the end of the '97 season. A strong one- or two-year offer would've kept Esiason around a little longer, while pre-empting the fruitless Neil O'Donnell signing.

  • Hiring Shula. This began the trend of bone-headed Brown decisions. Even worse, Shula was given one of the NFL's most undermanned rosters of all time then asked to develope run and shoot QB David Klingler without an offensive line. Fans and media call Shula the worst of the Bengal coaches but in the end, Coslet lost as much with more talent.

  • Drafting Klingler. See above.

  • Drafting Reinard Wilson. Let's see, Wilson was an undersized down lineman asked to move to linebacker in the ill-conceived zone blitz (blame that one on Coslet). He also scored extremely low in the intelligence tests given to collegiate prospects.  The Bungles could've alternatively had either Kenny Holmes or Renaldo Wynn with that No. 1 pick. Four years later, lots of money was wasted with almost zero production. Don't be surprised, if Brown re-signs him anyway.

  • Tie: drafting Artrell Hawkins ('98), Marco Battaglia ('96), Corey Hall ('99) and Rod Payne ('97). Well, okay, Hawkins has the edge, but you get the picture. Too many stupid, early picks. Instead of  Hawkins, the Bungles could've had All-Pro Samari Rolle, who like Holmes was taken by a club (Tennessee) with a real front office.

  • Keeping Carl Pickens around so long. Besides, Corey Dillon, Pickens was the only great Bengal pick in the 90's, but he overstayed his welcome. A smart GM would've dropped this guy at least a year earlier and found a decent replacement. Coslet gets an assist here because he convinced Brown to re-sign him before the '99 season.

  • The zone blitz defense. A dishonorable mention indeed with Brown believing (along with Coslet and LeBeau) that this club could build a defense resemblant of the great Steeler D's. They even thought it could be done with a group of mediocre and crummy players. Brilliant!

  • Keeping Ray Horton around. Brown blew his chance a couple of years ago when the DB's coach tried to leave. Bad player, bad personnel evaluator and very bad teacher. Big Play Ray is a perfect fit in this organization.

  • Cutting Lee Johnson. Mike couldn't handle the truth when Johnson spoke out against this lousy organization during the '98 season. Brown's stupid ego cost him a good punter, good holder and good teammate.

  • Losing Sam Shade. Most teams could've replaced Shade, a good run support safety with little coverage skill. But the Bungles, led by personnel imbeciles Lippincott and Horton, chose Corey Hall in the third round, despite draft guru consensus that Hall was no better than a fifth-round prospect. By the way, Shade was the only decent player that the Bengals drafted and lost to free agency in the 90's. Says volumes, huh?

The next coroner column will feature:  all the 2001 free agents who won't visit Cincinnati in February/ March;  Lippincott's Top Five local bakeries; how Horton rates the UC Bearcat cornerbacks; and Bengal scouts (all three) hit the trail early this year.

Disclaimer - The opinions expressed and implied here are those of the contributing fan columnist and may not be those of Fraidy.  Of course then again they probably are.

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