On Thursday, I wrote up the first piece in a two-part series of possible Bengals curses. The infamous "Curse of Bo Jackson" still sits with fans over twenty years later and 20% of Cincy Jungle readers claim that they believe in it. As I alluded to in that article, Bengals fans are superstitious and being as such, there's a second curse that the team's faithful believe in. It happens to revolve around another unfortunate event that occurred in 1991.
For the staggering lack of success that the Bengals have had to endure over their existence, their fate is intertwined with one of the NFL's most iconic figures. If there was a Mount Rushmore for the NFL, the four faces on the landmark would likely be that of Vince Lombardi, George Halas, Al Davis, and Paul Brown.
After becoming the first head coach and general manager of the Cleveland Browns and winning numerous AAFC championships and appearing in many other NFL title games, Brown was ultimately fired by Art Modell in January of 1963. This move cemented a rivalry with Modell and the Browns franchise that still exists today. It also paved the way for Brown to create another franchise of his own.
He petitioned to get a professional football franchise just a few short hours away from Cleveland and was granted a team in 1967, with that team debuting the following year. Brown assumed the role of owner, general manager, and head coach during the first few years of the team's existence. When the Bengals moved from the AFL to the NFL after the 1970 merger, they were placed in the AFC Central with Modell and the Cleveland Browns. The state of Ohio rivalry was born.
If you need a refresher on Paul Brown's legacy, take a look at this clip from the NFL Network's top-ten list of "Things That Changed The Game":
Brown eventually backed out of the coaching role after the 1975 season, but still ran the day-to-day operations through the 1990 season. In August of 1991, the same year that the Jackson injury and assumed curse began, Brown passed away. Though he made his share of enemies around the league and burned some bridges, Brown was an icon and was well-respected around the league.
Following his death, Brown's son, Mike Brown, assumed control of the team. Since 1991, Mike Brown has held the title of both owner and general manager, much like his father. Under Paul Brown, the Bengals endured their fair share of failures and successes. The top performances of the franchise came under Paul Brown in the 1980s, which culminated in two Super Bowl appearances. Under Mike Brown, the Bengals haven't had anywhere near the same successes that they had under his father.
From 1968-1990, the Bengals had a 171-183-1 record (.490 winning percentage). The Bengals made the playoffs seven times in the time span with a 5-7 postseason record and those two Super Bowl appearances. Not exactly stellar statistics, but there are still moments to be proud of in that 23-year span.
From 1991-2011 under Mike Brown (almost the exact same time period), the Bengals have a 124-211-1 record, which equates to a .370 winning percentage. There have been three playoff appearances, all in the Marvin Lewis era, with an 0-3 record. Unfortunately, the Bengals under Mike Brown have been more well-known for player arrests and draft busts than playoff victories and Super Bowl appearances.
As we've said many times before, it appears that the team has positioned itself well for future success because of it's free agency and draft philosophies since 2010. Still, the stats don't lie. The team has had to go through a staggering amount of failure in the Mike Brown era. What makes it worse is just when it appears that the team turns a corner, they seem to not be able to cope with success very well.
Again, this team has appeared to have opened a window of success for future years. But, there's still things that make us wonder if we're just in for the same ol', same ol' under Mike Brown's leadership. Marvin Lewis has yet to sign a contract extension, and there's still the streak of the team not stringing consecutive winning seasons in thirty years. There's also the lukewarm (at best) treatment of fans and the lack of an indoor practice facility. So, are we simply in for the rug to be pulled out from under us once again?
Again, if you look at the statistics, the cynic would point to the fact that a "Curse of Paul Brown" exists. The team just hasn't experienced anywhere near the success that it did under Paul Brown. A more rational approach to take is that Mike Brown just simply doesn't have the football prowess that his father did. Paul Brown's life revolved around coaching and football. Mike Brown's revolves around business and law, with football seeming as if it's his secondary interest and/or expertise.