Sweeping Changes…or Sweeping Under the Rug?

CINCINNATI OH - DECEMBER 05: Chris Ivory #29 of the New Orleans Saints runs with the ball during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 5 2010 in Cincinnati Ohio. The Saints won 34-30. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Cincinnati Enquirer Bengals beat writer Joe Reedy had this prediction for the offseason earlier today.

Anything other than sweeping though is not going to move the needle with the fan base. The club and luxury boxes are empty

I can’t argue with the first sentence. Frustration, anger and despair among the fans has never been higher, and even some old-timers who stuck with the team through the Nineties are abandoning ship. But as to the idea that this change will be motivated by a desire to sell luxury boxes and club seats, color me skeptical.

That isn’t to say that The Family wouldn’t like to see those seats filled, especially the luxury boxes, which represent revenues they don’t have to share with the rest of the league. But sales and marketing have never been among the organization’s core competencies (or interests) and, frankly, stadium revenues are gravy. The meat and potatoes come from the league, and it seems most likely to me that, with no salary floor around to prevent it anymore, ownership will simply lop a few million off payroll to make up for any shortfall in stadium coin.

Reedy’s compatriot Paul Daugherty certainly isn’t expecting the Bengals to open the proverbial vault after this season.

I’ve seen this movie before. Twelve years of weekly train wrecks isnt fun, for anyone. All the symptoms are in place for a re-run… 3. Ownership that very likely will look at the money it spent this year on free agents and say, "We did it your way this year. Now, we’re doing it our way."

In other words, on the cheap.

Also auguring against "sweeping" change is the uncertainty caused by the lack of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and the threat of a strike or lockout in 2011. If the labor dispute does stall the season, coaches are among those who will feel the effects.

The financial repercussions for team employees could be serious. In the event of a lockout, many teams will pay coaches only a fraction of their salaries. In an effort to cut costs, teams could lay off employees.

Put yourself in the position of a successful college coach, or previously successful NFL head coach with a cushy network TV gig. How anxious would you be to jump from your current secure perch into a job where you will still be expected to work your tail off, but may end up seeing you paycheck slashed in the fall? And more: even if you are willing, do you jump to Cincinnati, where you’ll not only have to do the job of head coach, but scout-in-chief as well?

In short, it seems like the pool of top-tier coaching candidates will be pretty shallow come early next year, and Mike Brown never fishes with the biggest lure anyhow. And the team’s options are even further limited because if the front office cleans house in January, it not only fires its coaching staff, it also cans most of its scouting organization, since coaches double as scouts in Cincinnati.

All of this adds up to less than sweeping change to me, unfortunately. Though I no longer think that The Family can afford to keep Marvin Lewis around (someone will have to carry the can for this season, and justifiably or not, he’s elected) the three names I keep coming back to are offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and offensive line coach/assistant head coach Paul Alexander.

Let me be clear: I do not think that any of them have done anything to deserve the top spot, but with all the questions around the 2011 season can very easily see one of them being "given a shot" on a one- or two-year deal. If the club does look outside its own ranks, then I expect they will end up hiring an out-of-work ex-NFL head coach who has no other good options.

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