Monday, December 12, 2011

An open letter to Mike Brown, Cincinnati Bengals owner

Mike Brown
President and Owner of the Cincinnati Bengals
One Paul Brown Way
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202

Dear Mr. Brown:

First let me congratulate you on your drafting of wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton. As rookies, both are producing like veteran players. Green has shown he can be a difference maker in winning games. I want to commend you for listening to your offensive coordinator, Jay Gruden, who recommended you draft Andy Dalton instead of Ryan Mallet. You also did the right thing by trading disgruntled Carson Palmer to Oakland for a first round draft pick and a second round pick in 2013 with the possibility that it could be a first round pick. You set aside your pride to do what was best for the team.

But I'm writing to tell you why your stadium is averaging 49, 619.00 per game which is the lowest in the NFL. The remarkable thing is that the Bengals are entertaining and playing winning football. Now I've heard various reasons. It's the recession. No. You sold out games in 2009, during the height of the recession. In an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer, you got part of it right. “We have to earn back our people, they lost belief in what we were doing." Yes, that's partially correct.

However, if you listen to sports talk radio or talk to dispirited season ticket owners, you would get the same theme over and over. Mr. Brown, they're mad at you. Some say you only care about maximizing your profits and don't care about winning. I don't agree with that. I know you want to win. But the consensus is that they're dissatisfied with your role as president.

For that last twenty one years, you have been the de facto general manager. So, let's look at your term as president of the Bengals. Your record in twenty years, yielded only two winning seasons. Your decisions to retain head coach David Shula for four years, draft David Klingler, and Akili Smith were disasters. By the way, you compounded the Smith decision by refusing an offer from New Orleans Saints to trade that pick for all of the Saints draft picks. Then in 2008, against head coach Marvin Lewis' wishes, you re-signed the troubled wide receiver Chris Henry. I could go on, but it's clear there's nothing to indicate that your decision making will be consistent with a successful NFL general manager. The record demonstrates that your decision making and judgement is consistently bad. Mr. Brown, I say to you if you were judging your performance as a person looking from the outside, I would say you would fire yourself.

Mr. Brown, I don't care how much money you make. And I want you to continue to own the Cincinnati Bengals. But you owe Cincinnati. Because after your father Paul Brown was fired by Cleveland Browns Art Modell, Cincinnati gave your father a fresh start. The city allowed the Brown family to get back into football by sponsoring a NFL team and eventually built a stadium for the team. That stadium is named after your father. This city made your family rich. That's okay. What we fans want is a consistent winner.

If I may, I suggest you do the following. I believe these moves will bring back the fans. One, hire more scouts. I generously count five scouts for the Bengals but the Pittsburgh Steelers have eight. Two, hire a general manager, one who can make the wise decisions to lead to a consistent winner. Now note that you would still collect the profits and agree to any contracts. So you still maintain quite a bit of control. Those disgruntled fans would come back with the knowledge that change will happen if the general manager fails. That's hope if the Bengals suffer a bad season that it will not be a draught.

I don't want to bash you, Mr. Brown. I've been a Bengals fan since the team was founded. Like many loyal fans, I have not jumped ship. But we need hope that there will be wise decisions and hope that change will occur when needed. I am confident that if you hire a general manager you will see a rise in attendance at Paul Brown Stadium.

Bernie Wong
A Bengals Fan.

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