|Apparently, I'm a bit late on this idea.|
By: Jon Landrum
We've finally made it to the Super Bowl! Well, almost. Unfortunately, we have one last week of nausea inducing fluff stories about Rodgers'/Roethlisberger's intangibles, how Rodgers has made Green Bay forget about Favre, and about how Mike Tomlin looks exactly like Omar Epps (I full embrace this story). And, of course, we have to hear 20,000 stories about how Big Ben is no longer a bad person because he won a few football games. Aren't we all excited?
Amidst the fluff and amidst the ridiculous Jay Cutler controversy (please, sports radio hosts, STOP IT!), there is one major NFL story that has been somewhat glossed over; Carson Palmer's trade demand. We see pro athletes demand trades all the time. Sometimes they're big stars like 'Melo and Kobe. Sometimes they're crappy slot receivers like Patrick Crayton (whom I loathe with all my being). Sometimes the demands are public, sometimes they are private. Regardless of who and how, trade demands are usually met with a healthy dose of vitriol from fans. This particular trade demand, however, has taken on a life of its own. Sure, some are angry at Palmer for wanting out, but there doesn't seem to be the usual public outcry. In fact, it almost seems like there is a measure of support.
Now, this is supposed to be the part where I talk about Palmer and how he is a franchise QB and how he deserves to be on a winner and blah blah blah. Truthfully, the Palmer aspect of the story doesn't interest me in the slightest. Palmer is past his prime and overrated. I'm interested in the bigger picture. What is the one giant, looming albatross that has given Palmer a free pass? No, I'm not talking about the Bengals. The Bengals were a successful organization at one time that made 2 Super Bowls (nearly winning both) and did an excellent job at developing young talent at key positions. In 1991, however, a major shift in power occurred in Cincinnati that has catastrophically altered the course of the entire organization and turned the Bengals into the laughingstock of the NFL. Yes, I'm talking about the real problem; Mike Brown. For this problem, there can be only one solution...
The NFL should forcibly remove Mike Brown as owner of the Cincinnati Bengals. In essence, a lifetime ban should be issued for conduct detrimental to the league. Sure, it seems like a drastic move given the legal problems that would be involved, but it is the only logical solution.
"Players and coaches don't win championship, organizations win championships." This quote, from former Chicago Bulls GM Jerry Krause, was wildly criticized at the time. That's not surprising given the fact his team was in the midst of its second three peat, featuring Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Phil Jackson. Worse yet, it goes against everything we are taught about sports. Truthfully, it makes me cringe just to read it. No matter the feelings involved, Krause hit the nail right on the head and there is no better example than the Bengals. Winning is all about organizational stability and sound management and the Bengals will continue to be a joke for as long as Brown is allowed to run the team.
Not convinced yet? Let's look a little closer at the teams history.
1970-1990 - Paul Brown Era
164-148 (.526), 6 division titles, 7 playoff births (5-7), 2 AFC Championships.
The franchise had to deal with the NFL-AFL merger (they were originally an AFL team) and were 7-2 in the strike shortened 1982 season, making them even more successful than the already good numbers would suggest. They may not have been the Steelers or Cowboys, but Cincinnati was always competitive. They finished last in their division only 5 times, finished with a losing record only 6 times, and had consecutive losing seasons only once (1978-1980). They produced two excellent QB's in Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason, had reasonable stability at head coach, and were 84-68 (.553) in the 10 years prior to Mike Brown
1991-Present - Mike Brown Era
115-204-1 (.359), 2 division titles, 2 playoff births (0-2), 1,457,836 dumb decisions (only slightly exaggerated).
Though he inherited a team with the same coach, same quarterback, and almost the same roster from a division winner the year before (not to mention the Super Bowl just a few years before that), Brown worked his magic immediately, finishing dead last with a 3-13 record. He proceeded to fire the most successful coach in franchise history (Sam Wyche) and destroy the roster. In his twenty years, the team has finished last 9 times, finished next to last another 4 times, ended the season with a losing record 14 times, and strung together an incredible 14 straight seasons without a winning record. The team has had legendary coaches such as Dave Shula, Bruce Coslet, and Dick LeBeau. They have featured All-Pro's at quarterback such as David Klingler, Jay Schroeder, Jeff Blake, Neil O'Donnell, Akili Smith, Scott Mitchell, and Jon Kitna. And they have drafted can't miss prospects such as David Klingler (6th overall), John Copeland (5th overall), Dan Wilkinson (1st overall), Ki-Jana Carter (1st overall), Akili Smith (3rd overall), Peter Warrick (4th overall), Chris Perry (26th overall), and fat Andre Smith (6th overall).
This is an owner that refuses to step down and hire a GM despite constant failure. This is an owner that won't invest in an indoor practice facility (the only team in the NFL without one). This is an owner that continually acquires poor character guys (Chris Henry, Pacman Jones, TO, Frostee Rucker, Odell Thurman, etc.), and openly works against his coach's personnel wishes. Worst of all, this is an owner that employs only one full time scout. ONE FULL TIME SCOUT?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!
Looking at that, it can't help but give you some perspective as to why the publicly owned Packers are playing for their 4th Super Bowl. In the same time period, Green Bay is 192-128 (.600), has 7 division titles, been to the playoffs 13 times, and claimed 3 NFC Championships. They have had successful head coaches such as Mike Holmgren, Mike Sherman, and Mike McCarthy (do they just hire Mikes?) and have starred just 2 quarterbacks. Of course, their success is no surprise with successful GM's like Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson steering the ship through the years.
The same can be said for the Steelers. Under the stable ownership of the Rooney family, the Steelers have been a model of consistency. Since 1991, the Steelers are 199-120-1 (.622), have 11 division titles, been to the playoffs 13 times, won 4 AFC Championships, and are playing for their 3rd Super Bowl trophy. This also comes as no surprise given the Steelers have had stable, smart ownership and just 3 coaches since 1969.
Here is the essence of what Jerry Krause was saying. Success starts at the top. Players change all the time, especially in the NFL. In the past 20 years, the Steelers and Packers have had to deal with roster turnover just as much as the Bengals. The guy making the decisions ultimately determines the success of the team. Give Roethlisberger and Rodgers all the credit you want, but 20 years from now, when they are both just memories, the Steelers and Packers will still be battling for the ultimate prize.
Amidst all the CBA uncertainty, a loud cry for more money can be heard from the owners. Of course, their immediate solution is to pay the players less for playing more games. Here's an idea, let's deal with the riff-raff amongst the owners! With only 32 franchises, isn't it a big deal that one man has mismanaged and destroyed a once proud organization? Isn't it a big deal that he refuses to accept responsibility and make changes to improve the situation? Isn't it a big deal that he has run down a committed and passionate fan base? While I'm at it, let's throw Al Davis in the mix! At one point, Davis was a visionary that built the Raiders into one of the most successful franchises in the NFL. Now, Davis and the Raiders are playing out a real life Weekend At Bernie's situation (Al is the dead guy by the way).
Here is my plea Bengals fans. Don't blame Carson Palmer for wanting out. Don't hate on him for wanting to escape. You would do the same thing if you were in his shoes. Things are worse than bad and there is no hope in sight. Yes, it's a drastic move. Yes, it might be a tough sell legally. Regardless, it's time for something to be done.
To the fans; stop giving your money to this man. Stop going to the games, stop buying jerseys, stop giving him your support. Yes, it will suck to give up on your team for a year or two, but a couple weeks of a near empty stadium would send a clear message.
To the NFL; it's time to clean up the mess here and in Oakland. These fan bases deserve better. This league is obsessed with legislating players, and now it is time to turn that same fervor towards legislating owners. Roger Goodell, it's time to save Cincinnati and Oakland and get Mike Brown and Al Davis out of the league. (Editors Note: We might be adding Tennessee and old Bud Adams to this plea soon. Also, my selfish hope is that this power be claimed now so it is available to use on Jerry Jones when he inevitably turns into a plastic version of Al Davis.)