Call the Jerk Line on Lewis and Brown By Paul Bessire August 19th, 2008
Someone should call the Cincinnati Bengals' Jerk Line on Marvin Lewis and Mike Brown.
There is a theory that, in every small organization, there are one or two guys who just "get it." For the Cincinnati Bengals, the head coach and owner are definitely not those guys. And frankly, the team may be one of the organizations that holds the average down with no guys who "get it." One would assume, that anyone who is at all in a position of influence and "gets it" would have been able to talk Lewis and Brown out of this one.
In a move that reeks of blatant desperation, a pure lack of any common sense and a gross misunderstanding of what it means to run a football team, let alone any organization, the Bengals brought back the much-maligned and once-released wide receiver Chris Henry. Henry, who was forced to miss eight games last season due to poor (and repeatedly so) off-field conduct as part of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's iron-fist ruling, is to be suspended again for the first four games of the season (how it makes sense that a repeat offender has committed an act harsh enough to be penalized, yet receives a lesser punishment than before, is probably another topic – maybe Goodell did not think any team would be dumb enough to let Henry play again).
Yes, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are banged up right now. Yes, backups Marcus Maxwell, Jerome Simpson and Glenn Holt lack experience. And yes, Chris Henry once scored nine touchdowns in a season and has a career yards-per-reception mark of 15.6. But, one must ask the question: why haven't any other teams even talked to Henry since his release?
Do the Jacksonville Jaguars, who lack a proven play-maker at the position, really think that Henry would be a worse teammate/cancer than Jerry Porter, who they just signed, or Matt Jones, who was just caught cutting up cocaine in the back of a pick-up truck in Arkansas? They must.
Do the Dallas Cowboys, who have an obvious history with obnoxious wide receivers and giving players too many chances and who barely have their number two WR figured, let alone anyone beyond that, think so little of Pacman Jones' West Virginia teammate that they have completely ignored him? I would guess.
He is just not that good on the gridiron. And he just is that bad off of it (ask Rich Rodriguez, a man of clearly low morals, who kicked Henry off the Mountaineers for good because of Henry's behavior).
So why would a team with two Pro Bowl wide receivers (who should be healthy for the regular season), three drafted rookie wide receivers, a giant target on its back from the League due to previous off-the-field issues resulting in suspensions, and first-hand knowledge of the negative repercussions of having such a player on the roster, want to disrupt its locker room, go back on its word, further distort its ethical foundation and take the enormous public relations hit just by bringing back a 24 year-old, average NFL receiver who has taken for granted the many "second-chances" he has received at every level? Because they just do not "get it."
From the very first time I met Marvin Lewis (February 25, 2003 – also my 21st birthday), I was underwhelmed (lamest 21st ever!). He was the key note speaker at the Cincinnati Business Achievement Awards. Ever the motivator, Lewis approached the podium unnervingly, spoke calmly for two to three minutes about how we were going to try to win some football games, and then he stepped away. Huh?
Unfortunately, my experiences with him declined from there. At Sunday night's pre-season game against the Lions, to which I was very fortunate to have a press credential, Lewis reiterated my beliefs as I sat watching him in amazement at the press conference. I have heard his condescending tone and seen his irritation with media before, but was still appalled with what I witnessed as he "answered" just three questions. The only other high-profile coach that I have covered was Bob Huggins, and I miss those days. At least his arrogance was dry and laughable. Lewis berates reporters, smiling smugly and uncomfortably. He tries to act as though he knows more about football than everyone, like he should get all of the credit for the success of just the good teams (really just the Baltimore Ravens defense) that he coached, yet should be free of blame for current struggles.
You don't get to have it both ways. One cannot necessarily expect a head coach to be a leader, a tactician, an excellent talent evaluator and a media-savvy politician all-in-one. Bengals fans and media alike are just looking for the day when he exhibits one of those traits.
There are those who are signaling this as the end of Lewis' reign as Mike Brown re-asserts himself, yet I believe that is a bit presumptuous. This is the same Marvin Lewis who just three and a half months ago drafted Jason Shirley, a defensive tackle who had been kicked off of his college team on three occasions and was already facing legal issues. It's also the same Marvin Lewis responsible for choosing Odell Thurman, Henry (the first time), Jonathan Joseph, Frostee Rucker, A.J. Nicholson, Mathias Askew and others.
Still, if this was Mike Brown's decision, why would he have done this? It is something that could hurt his wallet (in many respects). As one of the most despised owners in all of professional sports, Mike Brown has made it pretty obvious that he could care less about winning (at least for another six years). Don't believe me? He told me so himself…
Seven years ago, I was very fortunate to have a one-on-one with the Bengals' owner. For almost the entire interview, Brown stared off into the new Paul Brown Stadium, the king of his castle. After shaking my hand, I never was able to make eye contact with him - it was almost as though he was still reveling in what he was able to get the city to build him - until one answer he gave me that, as a sports fan, broke my heart. I had asked about balancing the business aspect of the team with the winning side. He perked up a little, turned toward me and, with his finger pointed directly toward me, stated as vehemently as he stated anything that day, "To make money in this league, you only need to have a winning season once every eight years. And that's what I am concerned about."
That hurt everything that I thought I loved about sports. I had no response. If he follows his own words of wisdom, the team won't try for another winning season until 2013.
Brown is not out to win yet. If he was calling the shots on this one, it must be because he has, somewhat nobly somehow, completely and illogically misconstrued the ideals of the late father, Paul Brown, for which the son tries too hard to mimic. According to Mike, Paul Brown was always willing to give guys the benefit of the doubt, doing whatever he could to get his players on the right track. I assume Paul "got it" well enough to understand where the line is that should not be crossed and how deeply decisions like these could negatively impact every aspect of his organization.
No matter who is really calling the shots, both should be responsible. It's as if each thinks he has things under control and that the team is doing the "right" things, when both are just far enough behind that neither has control and the team continues to do and celebrate the wrong things. They just don't get it.
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