The Cincinnati Bengals need a complete overhaul to reengage their fans, but owner Mike Brown has never shown any willingness to do so.
The Bengals last won a playoff game on Jan. 6, 1991. Seven months later, Mike Brown assumed ownership of the franchise.
In the 27 years since Brown took over for his late, great father, the Bengals have been a disappointment. Cincinnati has employed great players ranging from Corey Dillon and Chad Johnson to Carson Palmer and Geno Atkins. None of it has mattered, because Brown can’t find a decent coach. Broad also won’t admit that he’s not the smartest guy in the room.
Harvard educated and the son of football’s greatest mind, Brown has refused to hire a general manager. He’s left the tasks of identifying talents both in players and coaches to himself, something that has ended in spectacular failure after spectacular failure.
A full list of the Cincinnati coaches since Brown took over: Dave Shula, Dick LeBeau, Bruce Coslet and Marvin Lewis. Lewis deserves credit for turning around the moribund franchise since taking over in 2003, but the fact remains that he’s without a playoff win in seven appearances, and has consistently watched quality rosters go down the proverbial tubes.
Having the second-longest tenure of active head coach behind only Bill Belichick, Lewis has lost the patience of the Queen City. On Sunday, the stands were blotched with scores of empty seats despite the team being a game out of the playoff chase. While it must be noted that Andy Dalton is lost for the year, it must also be said that a franchise with hope likely continues to draw fans in hopes that the coaching staff could coax along the backup.
Instead, the empty seats spoke volumes. Whether Brown was finally listening or not was another story.
For decades, fans and pundits have railed that Brown is cheap, caring more about the bottom line than a Lombardi Trophy. There’s some merit to that notion considering Cincinnati has never been a significant player in free agency, dating back to its creation in 1993. The Bengals will spend on their own, but rarely on outside talent.
To compound matters, Brown has one of the best lease agreements in the league. The Bengals are being paid a minimum of $2.67 million each year between 2019-26 to remain at Paul Brown Stadium, benefiting from the taxpayers of Hamilton County.
Unfortunately, Bengals fans are likely stuck looking at Lewis — or the team’s head coach in waiting, Hue Jackson — until Brown steps aside. The 83-year-old will likely leave the team in the hands of daughter Katie Blackburn, who has a more modern approach to team building from coaches to players.
Until then, fans will must continue to stop showing up, hoping Brown makes a change with indifference setting in.
So far, Brown has yet to show he cares.