Mike Brown offered Dhani Jones a ride in his golf cart Wednesday during practice so he could get close to his old mates and say hello. Jones eyed the Bengals president with a mischievous smile.
“I’ve never sat in that golf cart. I’ve seen other people in that golf cart, but I’ve never been in it,” said Jones, never carted off the practice field in four seasons as a Bengal. “Do you have a license to drive this thing?”
Jones, 34, is in his second year of retirement since playing his last NFL game as the Bengals middle linebacker in 2010, and he continues to traverse the globe in all sorts of vehicles. But Wednesday was the first time in Mike Brown’s golf cart and yet it wasn’t their first conversation by a longshot.
” I’d barge into his office from time to time,” Jones said. “Mike’s a driven man. He’s got great intentions for the team and he’s got high expectations for the team.”
They talked about, in no particular order, Brown’s health, his family, maps, and his aspirations.
“I don’t think there’s any NFL owner who doesn’t want to win it all,” Jones said.
One of the reasons Brown no doubt feels so comfortable with Jones is that he’s the embodiment of the player Paul Brown coveted. Smart, prepared, and a plan for life after football.
Jones is busier than ever with seven shows on channels ranging from The Big Ten to Spike TV, where he’s got two. His Bow Tie foundation for charity also continues to expand with more than 80 organizations involved and the designs just keep coming.
His legacy with the Bengals is just as busy and connected. When the thing began to implode in the dog days of ’07 and ’08, Jones was one of the consummate professionals that kept head coach Marvin Lewis’ principles afloat and set the stage for the ’09 North title, the ’11 Wild Card and the high expectations of ’12.
It was a two-way street. On Wednesday Jones told Brown “The four years I spent here on the field as well as off the field were probably some of the best years I played the game.”
One of the players he watched Wednesday was his old roommate, Vincent Rey, the second-year linebacker who has modeled his life on and off the field after Jones. When Jones retired, Rey asked for and got Jones’ No. 57, and made the team as a special teams maven. A free-agent from Duke, he’s still here.
“I like watching him play because I remember the things we talked about while we were rooming together and that translates into the way he plays,” Jones said. “My little brother.”
His influence is so directly felt on the man that replaced him in the middle, Rey Maualuga, that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer had to tell him, “Stop trying to be like Dhani.” Jones not only knew what all 10 guys were doing, he desperately had to know. Zimmer doesn’t think that fits Maualuga’s style of play.
Jones agrees and says he’s talked to him about it.
“I tell him the same thing. He has to be him. You can only be yourself for that position,” Jones said. “Rey does a great job. He’s got his own style and everybody knows he’s good. He’s got to play like that.
“If he makes the mistake, he’s going make the mistake that might cost you but never cost him. At the same time, he’s a young player on the verge of being a better young player and continuing to get better and better and be a superior player.”
“Reckless with intent,” Jones said.
Jones didn’t have to tackle the globe Wednesday to view some of his accomplishments. The view was pretty good from Mike Brown’s golf cart.
Tags: Dhani Jones, Marvin Lewis, Mike Brown, Rey Maualuga, Vincent Rey
Posted in Hobson's Choice | 42 Comments »
INDIANAPOLIS — Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco arrived nearly 30 minutes late for his press availability Wednesday morning, but he still offered a pretty good 23 minutes as the Pats prepared for Sunday’s Super Bowl (6:30 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Channel 5) against the Giants
Here are a few highlights with more to come:
On his 10 seasons in Cincinnati and Bengals president Mike Brown, head coach Marvin Lewis, and former offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski:
“They gave me life. … Mike was good to me, the city was good to me, the media—we had our ups and downs—it made it fun. The fans were epic 10 straight years. Of course, I had my rifs, my raffs. I’m like any other human being. I’m not perfect. There’s nothing bad I can actually say.”
On his future:
“I want to be back (in New England) … (I can play) 10 more years. I’m Brett Favre. Without the pictures.”
On making the Super Bowl while having the worst season of his career:
“It’s a blessing to be on the stage to get to the stage. So many players play this game for such a long time. The greats. The (Dan) Marinos. Barry Sanders. I don’t think he was ever able to break the stage. Just to be able to be here is a blessing …
“Being here is like watching porn. There’s nothing bad about it at all.”
If the Patriots win, will you feel a part of it?
“I’ll feel a part of it … I learned three, four, five years ago to stop fussing about things that are out of your control. That’s what I’ve done. That’s why I was quiet this year. When my number was called, I did my best.”
Tags: Bob Bratkowski, Chad Ochocinco, Marvin Lewis, Mike Brown
Posted in Hobson's Choice | 15 Comments »
Again, in honor of Lance McLaRussa and Peter The King, Things I Think I Believe, The Carson Edition.
I Think I Believe Tuesday was a very weird day in Bengaldom. It’s a happy day with the Church of Paul Brown’s bells pealing and the pundits singing and the team resting at 4-2.
And let’s lift a glass to a first-round pick in 2012 and at least a second-round pick in 2013. Right guard Bobbie Williams heard the compensation for Carson Palmer and his eyes went wider than Shayne Graham against the Steelers.
“The gift,” Bobbie said, “that keeps on giving.”
But there should be some sadness here. Palmer is one of the great all-time Bengals and even though he’s been good and gone nine months now in the hearts and minds of Bengaldom, the trade closes a significant chapter in its history.
What’s that you say? He’s a quitter, a coward, a wimp?
If that’s how you see it. I see it that he’s a good guy and a hell of a quarterback who made a mistake when he let the frustration and competitiveness get the better of him and would any of us be any better?
Even if I disagree with how he went about it at the end or wish at times he could have been a more passionate leader or more engaged in the community, that doesn’t change the fact he was one of the more courageous, talented and nicest guys to play here. He remained true to himself. Not warm and fuzzy. But private, polite, laid-back, resolute.
I Think I Believe so did Mike Brown stay true to himself. Tough, patient, trying to fit today into the big picture. Not as inflexible as you think.
And that says something for both guys in this age of TwitterFacebookNFLNetworkTeamCamsTeaPartyOccupationWallStreet with the world screaming at you at 235 miles per hour red, angry and mean like some boil on the neck to be just like them.
I Think I Believe I’m biased. Not 15 minutes after Palmer walked out of his first Raiders news conference he was on the horn Tuesday night. Not with SI or PFT or PTI or Shefty or Mort or the Dannetes or Rome, but with Bengals.com. Given what has transpired since his Mobile Manifesto at the Senior Bowl back in January, you wouldn’t exactly figure that would be an outlet on his list.
But it says something about him. It says everything about him. He’s a classy guy. Always has been. He didn’t say why he wanted out. We’ve all got guesses and we’re all probably a little right. Demanding a trade with the retirement card and four years left on a contract wasn’t the best thing to do, but this league, heck this team, has seen a lot worse. It could have got ugly. Palmer could have reported to force Brown’s hand. Brown could have offered to ship him to Washington. Tuesday could have been a two time-zone Jerry Springer, but you have to credit the civility of both guys.
I Think I Believe I disagree with Doc, although I’m assuming the “Mike Brown’s Finest Hour” column is largely tongue in cheek.
If you ask me, deciding to keep the Bengals in Cincinnati back in 1995 when everyone was telling him the smart money was in Baltimore was his finest hour. Published reports now put the Ravens revenue at $25 million more per year than the Bengals.
Other hours that trump the Palmer trade: Convincing Paul Brown to get back into pro football and doing it in Cincinnati, scouting and pushing the draft selections of Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason, building two Super Bowl teams in the ‘80s, hiring the AFC North’s first African-American head coach in Marvin Lewis.
I Think I Believe I liked Lewis’ answer when I asked about the consideration given to the same 4-2 records of the Bengals and Raiders. Say the Chargers win the AFC West and say the Bengals are trying to be one of two wild card teams that come out of the AFC North. Well, Cincinnati has beaten Buffalo head-to-head to win a tiebreaker. And if they had let Hue Jackson struggle with Kyle Boller for a while, you wouldn’t have had the Raiders to worry about for very long. Now you’ve given them air with a guy who has been to the Pro Bowl and won divisions.
But as Lewis said, “Once you make the choice and the decision, you can’t worry what happens on the other side. If you go through life that way, where are you going? You’d chase your tail all of the time and you’re not moving forward. Anytime a guy leaves this place and has put himself on the line for me like they have, I’m going to wish them well every chance I get. We love the chance to compete against people we’ve had here before. That’s part of it. That’s what any sport is about.”
I Think I Believe Palmer was worth the No. 1 pick in 2003. In the six seasons before he became the starter, the Bengals were 14-36 in division games. In his six seasons he didn’t miss a division game, they were 22-14. Enough said. And they had a shot every time he strapped it up after a decade of getting blown out and for eight years he said all the right things.
I Think I Believe I’ve said before that Palmer has a chance to be the Jim Plunkett of the early 21st century. A former Heisman Trophy winner and overall No. 1 pick; a battle-scarred veteran thought to be washed up leading another franchise to a Super Bowl title. Add now that both are returning to their native California for Al Davis’ team.
From 2004-06, only Brady and Manning were better than Palmer. And in ’09 he might not have had great stats, but he had the ultimate year for a quarterback with seven last drives at the end of a game or overtime that either won it, tied it, or gave the Bengals the lead. If he had performed that season in the NFC East there would be a statue of him.
Does he have anything left? I’d like to see him in an offense where the receivers don’t make it up as they go and the system doesn’t ask him to always drop back seven steps and make a great throw just to get eight yards. Then we’ll know.
I Think I Believe I disagree with Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated when he says that there is a double standard in granting Palmer a trade and not one to Chad Ochocinco when he demanded a trade in 2008. Which worries me because Trotter is one of the smartest guys out there and is very good at his craft.
But they are two different situations. The major thing is Ocho had a prohibitive salary cap hit of about $5-6 million if the Bengals traded him before the ’08 draft. Palmer had none. The Ocho reported to mandatory minicamp and training camp, Palmer didn’t report to anything.
And The Ocho went very public with his rant (he kept NFL Network on the air by himself that spring) that began at the Super Bowl and didn’t stop, really, until he got sent home in November the night before the Steelers game for insubordination. Palmer didn’t surface until Tuesday’s news conference.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Marvin Lewis, Mike Brown
Posted in Hobson's Choice | 16 Comments »
CLEVELAND — A few pregame thoughts heading into Sunday’s opener.
Everyone is trying to put a label on this 2011 Bengals locker room without The Ocho and T.O. and it is so easy to say it’s less egocentric, more unselfish, and the chemistry flows like champagne. And without quarterback Carson Palmer, it’s even easier to call them The Young and The Leaderless.
But like all the pundits have already made up their minds on how bad the Bengals are going to be, let’s slow down just a little bit.
One assistant told me on Saturday that while locker room chemistry is extremely important, it takes time to become visible. He wants to see them go through some adversity first.
That’s code for their response to big injuries and tough losses, be it blowouts or of the last-minute variety. Another long-time insider says he’s looking to see how they react “to getting hitting in the mouth. And they will get hit in the mouth.”
That’s going to take a month or so.
And a locker room is like any other workplace. Not everybody agrees on everything. Safety Chris Crocker, one of the team leaders, has always thought the Bengals have had good chemistry since he arrived in the middle of the 2008 season.
“Our locker room has never been an issue. From the outside you think The Ocho was a distraction or whatever. But he was just a good guy that liked to have fun. I don’t think our locker room is any different, it’s just young.”
But another leader, this one on offense in left tackle Andrew Whitworth, thinks the youth has changed the room.
“It’s younger. It’s just a different mindset, different attitude. It brings some life to the locker room and some change,” he said. “There aren’t as many guys that are just playing and thinking we don’t have a chance. We have some young guys that have won and are real good players and they bring some energy. Sometimes you need some new freshness.”
Whitworth says rookie quarterback Andy Dalton isn’t all that different than Palmer when it comes to personality. Both are laid back. Both are quiet. Both talk in the huddle.
And while the offense may be younger (there are just 132 NFL catches at wide receiver and 15 NFL games at tight end), the locker room picked up three seasoned and solid pros in cornerback Nate Clements and linebackers Manny Lawson and Thomas Howard. Plus, guys like Whitworth and defensive linemen Domata Peko and Robert Geathers, already captains of sorts, earned their PhDs in leadership during the lockout. There are some coaches that believe the lockout was a boon for the Bengals in the sense that it forced guys other than the usual leaders—the Crockers and Whitworths and Pekos and Geathers—to step up and police the locker room.
While everyone is scrambling trying to read everything into every clue, Dalton shrugged. Yes, he took the locker Palmer has had since 2006 when Jon Kitna left. The one tucked in a corner, the last locker on the left as players go to the equipment room, practice field and the parking lot.
But Dalton says he wasn’t trying to send a message. It simply came down to a matter of electronics. He pointed to the wall next to the locker.
“That’s why,” Dalton said. “The outlet. It’s in a great spot. It’s easy to charge my phone or plug anything else in … it’s just a locker.”
In the end, his legacy could be that glacial calm that soothes a locker room that was once a tinderbox. But give it some time. Right now, it’s just a locker room.
WEST COAST REUNION: Sunday’s opener marks the return of the Bengals offense to its roots after a 10-year absence. New offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has brought back the version of the West Coast offense he learned under his bother Jon.
What makes it even more intriguing is the Browns are using it in a game between the two teams founded by Paul Brown. And as his son, Bengals president Mike Brown, said this week, it was his father that gave the West Coast its language and numbering system.
It’s an intermarriage of Xs and Os. Jon Gruden broke in at Bill Walsh’s 49ers in the early ‘90s, the former Bengals assistant that created the West Coast in Cincinnati using Paul Brown’s Cleveland offenses of the ‘40s and ’50s as a template in the early days of the Bengals in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.
New Browns head coach Pat Shurmur was hired by club president Mike Holmgren, a Walsh disciple that made major adjustments to the West Coast to suit his strong-armed quarterback in Green Bay, Brett Favre, in the ‘90s. While Walsh preferred the shorter passes and working under center, Holmgren put Favre in the shotgun while keeping intact one of the absolute truths of the West Coast of multiple personnel groups.
Now, Jay Gruden says the West Coast has evolved so much that his brother and Holmgren would have a tough time understanding each other’s playbook.
Mike Brown says Walsh used his father’s numbering system, but he credits the future Hall of Fame coach for creating the genesis of the West Coast in 1970. With 1969 AFC Rookie of the Year Greg Cook suffering what turned out to be a career-ending shoulder injury while winning the AFC passing title, Brown says Walsh went to a shorter passing game to suit the arm of journeyman Virgil Carter that next season and the Bengals made the playoffs.
But Brown believes the zenith of the West Coast didn’t come until the ‘90s, when he says 49ers quarterback Steve Young ran it the best of anyone before and after.
And this is where Bengals fans start to mumble a series of unintelligible what-ifs. Before Walsh died a few years ago, he insisted Cook was the best young quarterback he ever saw. In 1984, Brown went to bed thinking he had a deal for Young as the No. 1 pick in the draft only to wake up to find he had signed with something called the Los Angeles Express.
Sunday it all comes full circle for an offense that started in the rust belt and was named after California. And everyone is waiting to see where Dalton falls among Cook, Young and Carter.
Tags: Andrew Whitworth, Andy Dalton, Bengalls locker room, Bill Walsh, Chris Crocker, Mike Brown, Paul Brown, West Coast offense
Posted in Hobson's Choice | 10 Comments »
Carson Palmer to the Dolphins?
Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald has had the Dolphins wired longer since, it seems, Watergate, so when he reports the Dolphins are interested in trading for Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, they are.
But if they think it’s going to take Dan Marino’s suggested third-round pick, they should take a drug test. Mike Brown giving up Palmer for only a third-rounder? Never happen. Brown giving up Palmer period? Maybe less than never.
Although Salguero suggests that the Bengals president is softening on his no-trade stance and others are theorizing the Bengals will trade Palmer if they get a quarterback in the first or second round, not so fast Bob Griese-breath.
Three weeks ago at the NFL meetings, Brown insisted he’s not trading Palmer. Nothing has happened since then to indicate anything has changed. This isn’t an owner who checks in on his team every once in awhile. This isn’t a GM saying it. Or even an unnamed Bengals official.
It was the day-to-day CEO of the club saying it three weeks ago in a New Orleans hotel room and putting his name to it. No trade. And this is where Brown should never get underestimated. If you back him into a corner publicly on any issue, you’re going to have a long wait. Some might call him stubborn. But most tough, principled and smart people are. You’d call Palmer that, too. But his trade request died the moment it saw the light of day.
It could still happen. But should you hold your breath?
Plus, there’s this: Those close to Brown say Palmer is one of his favorite all-time Bengals. It figures. A great passer with a low-key, easy-to-like personality who never bought all the hype about himself.
I’m sure Armando is right on it.
But it looks like the Dolphins have to fish elsewhere.
At least for now. And now is looking like a long time.
And with the lockout freezing the league, that’s all we’ve got is now.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Mike Brown, Palmer Dolphins, trade rumors
Posted in Hobson's Choice | 47 Comments »
Again, in honor of WLW talkmaster Lance McAlister with baseball back again, and in honor of Peter King, Sports Illustrated titan, as I shamelessly begin to lobby for another pair of his Red Sox tickets, another version of I Think I Believe:
I Think I Believe the American judicial system is the only thing on the planet that can render the NFL as numbingly boring as 30 minutes of watching public access television.
I Think I Believe that I never agreed with Peter’s report from two weeks ago that the Bengals will listen to trade offers for Carson Palmer. They’re not ready. At least not yet. And they really won’t be ready if they can’t trade until him after the draft. When all they’ll be able to get is God knows what in 2012. If God knows they could get Andrew Luck, maybe that would change things.
I Think I Believe I do agree with Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. Mike Brown didn’t give quarterback Carson Palmer a subtle jab during his Saturday interview with Bengals.com and The Cincinnati Enquirer.
I asked Brown how the lockout impacts the Palmer situation and he said, “I don’t want to talk about specific players. We’re not allowed to deal with the players and I’m not looking to send messages through the media or to the player or the public about a player. That’s a step too far under the ground rules we have with the lockout.”
Like Florio, I disagree with Joe and don’t believe Brown was taking a “subtle jab” at Palmer. Far from it.
First of all, Brown is out of the old school and takes very few shots and even more rarely at players. And when he does, he ain’t subtle. But I’ve never heard him go after a player back when he was talking to the media. He went off on Carl Pickens after he underminded head coach Bruce Coslet, but that’s about it. And he still has high regard for Palmer despite this mess. So much so he wouldn’t take a shot at him publicly and probably not privately, either.
Two, we know Mike wants Carson back. Back in the Jan 24 Mobile Doctrine, he called him central to the team’s plans. Now, that may just be pie in the sky and Palmer has no intention of coming back, but Mike isn’t going to do anything to alienate him publicly.
And third, Brown is one of these guys who is a stickler for the rules. I legitimately think the answer came straight from the heart. The NFL isn’t exactly clear about what you can and can’t legally say about players during the lockout, so owners are literally treating each word as if each syllable is a booby trap.
Nah, it wasn’t a jab. With all due respect to Reedy, who does a hell of a job and grinds the beat like not many.
I Think I Believe Antwan Odom has paid the steepest price ever to be named NFL Defensive Player of the Month.
Look at what has happened to the guy since he had five sacks against the Packers on Sept 20, 2009 in Green Bay. After getting one sack in the next four games, he ripped up his Achilles to end his season. Then his next training camp was hobbled by a virus and sore knee. Then when the season got going, he broke his wrist and reaggravated the knee before he got suspended a month for violating the league’s drug policy despite his lawyer arguing Odom had merely taken one of his wife’s prescription weight-loss pills by accident. Then he ended the season IR with no sacks. Now in the middle of the night he lost his home in Mason, Ohio to a fire.
Thankfully, he and his family weren’t home and we’re thinking of him today. The guy is an immense talent who if he gets back to anywhere near that ’09 form, just think what they have with him, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson.
I Think I Believe the running backs, whoever they may be, are going to combine for something like 80 to 100 catches this season.
Jay Gruden’s West Coast scheme is perfect for backups Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard and by virtue of being The Bell Cow, Cedric Benson would probably grab 30 to 40 by himself. In his three seasons here, Benson’s high has been last season’s 28 catches, but they seemed more out of desperation and it didn’t look like the checkdowns were emphasized all that much. Benson may not be a scatback, but try tackling him in space when he’s got a running start. Remember late in the ’08 season when he burned the Redskins on a 79-yard screen that was the Bengals’ longest play of that season? And the clinching TD he caught against Carolina last year?
The Bengals haven’t always been infatuated with Scott’s attention to detail in the passing game, but if he’s heard about this playbook yet – and it’s anything like the usual West Coast – this thing is right down his alley out of the backfield. For whatever reason, he’s the most under-used guy on this roster. I’m not saying 15 to 20 touches a game, but how about between eight and 12? Or maybe even make him a bell cow for a couple of series like they were using him late in the year. In the coaches’ defense, he did get nicked up here and there and that cut down on his availability.
But they’ve got him for sure now with Benson and Leonard free agents.
I Think I Believe I see and hear more from former Bengals defensive tackle John Thornton than when he actually played. (And listen my children, Thornton was a very solid player up and down the line and a great locker room guy.)
He’s all over. He’s media. He’s working with draft prospects and players. He’s blogging and tweeting. He’s unstoppable. You can only hope to contain him.
On Tuesday, Thornton reported he’s at the University of Pittsburgh pro day watching one of his clients, wide receiver Jon Baldwin, and Gruden and Bengals receivers coach James Urban are also there. Also on display is running back Dion Lewis. As we’ve noted, NFL.com’s Pat Kirwan has mocked Baldwin to the Bengals at No. 35 in the second round. And at 6-5, he does have the size the Bengals love at wideout. He’s as tall as the late Chris Henry, but he’s about 25 pounds heavier and not as fast, but he can still run very well for a big guy.
As T.J. Houshmandzadeh would say, “Interesting…”
I Think I Believe I will wear my “I Believe” T-shirt under my Tony C. Red Sox jersey for the Flying Pig 10K.
Tags: Antwan Odom, Bernard Scott, Brian Leonard, Carson Palmer, Cedric Benson, Jon Baldwin, lockout, Mike Brown
Posted in Hobson's Choice | 23 Comments »