When I was reading the Bengals press release that announced Carson Palmer's trade to the Oakland Raiders, one particular line struck me.
"We also find ourselves rather suddenly in position of being able to receive real value for Carson that can measurably improve our team – which is performing well and is showing real promise for this year and years to come. When this opportunity arose, we felt we could not let it pass, and needed to take a step forward with the football team if we could."
A proponent for Mike Brown, I've never been. Yet never have I thought that Mike Brown didn't genuinely want to build a winning organization, rather he just never knew how, especially after losing direction once his father passed away. Principles weighed heavily, unnecessarily so. While I'm not willing to offer complete redemption for one of the more villainous figures in Cincinnati sports simply for trading Carson Palmer, the road to perdition is being built and the Palmer trade was just another step in that direction.
I know what you're thinking. It's reactionary. Good vibrations about such a ravenous issue that even a fifth rounder would have satisfied hungry dogs. True. Understandably so. A trade for anything would have eliminated the need to talk about Palmer, picked up something in return and largely dissipated lingering distractions. Yet Mike Brown stuck to his guns, refusing to heed concerned Bengals fans demanding immediate results with an eye towards the perfect offer that would tilt Earth's axis. One such offer came at some point Monday night through Tuesday morning, offering as much as a first rounder in 2012 and a second rounder in 2013, with a reported (though not confirmed) condition that if the Raiders win a divisional playoff game (not the wild card round), that selection becomes a first rounder as well. It wasn't long after the rumor surfaced everything took shape and the deal was done before we could even accept that this wasn't a Matrix construct, rather the reality of Brown's inaction that will undoubtedly be described as patience.
Denying Mike Brown's press conferences during the offseason as one of the more crushing moments would be like denying the existence of the sun. Marvin Lewis re-signed with the team that many questioned, because, frankly, Lewis returned with zero playoff wins in eight seasons. Based completely off conjecture stemming from various reports, Lewis was granted additional authority with his coaching staff and his first step was firing Bob Bratkowski after the Senior Bowl, hiring Jay Gruden soon after. Perhaps Brown deserves partial credit, for at least allowing Lewis to ditch Bratkowski, someone Brown liked. Additionally the issue of an indoor practice facility was strong enough for Lewis that Mike Brown made a deal recently with the University of Cincinnati to use theirs.
When Carson Palmer demanded a trade, threatening to use the "retirement card", Brown suspected that Palmer was bluffing, eventually agreeing with the suggestion from Marvin Lewis and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden to draft TCU quarterback Andy Dalton, even though Brown favored Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett. Six weeks into the 2011 regular season, Brown received a tremendous offer for a first (2012) and a second round pick (2013) and pulled the trigger. The team drafted Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green, many of whom described as the best wide receiver coming out of college since Calvin Johnson. And rather than releasing Chad Ochocinco, which was widely believed as something that the team would do, they were able to trade him to the New England Patriots for two draft picks (a 2012 fifth-rounder and a 2013 sixth-rounder). Not including compensatory picks after free agency this year, the Bengals already have nine draft picks for 2012, including two first rounders.
Then there's the issue of Lewis' possibly increased authority with personnel decision. At one point during the free agency blitz soon after the NFL lockout was lifted, the Cincinnati Bengals were reportedly convinced that Johnathan Joseph would return to Cincinnati. Houston swooped in with an offer he couldn't refuse and the Bengals responded by signing Nate Clements. Roddrick Muckelroy suffered a season-ending injury, the Bengals signed Manny Lawson. Dontay Moch and Keith Rivers would miss the first part of the regular season (at least), so the Bengals signed Thomas Howard, who is arguably the team's best linebacker through the first six games this season. Roy Williams and Chinedum Ndukwe didn't return, so the team nearly signed Donte Whitner and stole Taylor Mays from San Francisco (for a 2013 seventh round draft pick) intending to develop him as the team's long-term safety. And before that, the Bengals acquired safety Reggie Nelson from the Jacksonville Jaguars while sacrificing red-shirt David Jones. During the previous three NFL drafts, they've acquired tight end Jermaine Gresham, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, wide receiver Jordan Shipley, defensive tackle Geno Atkins, running back Bernard Scott, linebacker Rey Maualuga, defensive end Michael Johnson and punter Kevin Huber, all of whom are starters or have made significant contributions in the past year.
Interestingly enough, all of that happened well before the Carson Palmer trade on Tuesday. But it was the Palmer trade that made most of look back and see that Mike Brown hasn't done that bad of a job putting together a 4-2 team that's slowly setting the foundation for a sustained future, provided that road to perdition continues.
Regardless, we should give Mike Brown a little credit.