Earlier today, we received some relatively surprising news that Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis had received a contract extension through the 2014 season. Like he usually does, owner Mike Brown stayed behind the curtain, allowing Lewis to do the public talking about the extension. Brown did release a statement to the press preaching continuity, as well as his pleasure in getting the deal done before the 2012 season starts.
But, it was Lewis who came to the defense of Cincinnati's much-maligned football franchise owner, talking about how much Brown wants to win. Of Brown, Lewis said in a statement to the press:
"There's nobody in Cincinnati that wants to win more than the man upstairs. And that's my job to get him there and that's what I'm committed to doing."
Lewis and Brown haven't always had the rosiest of relationships. It's not to say that they didn't get along or didn't have mutual respect for each other, but they didn't always have a "shared vision", as both men have put it recently. From issues like the controversial wide receivers that were Chris Henry and Chad Ochocinco, to the Carson Palmer situation and an indoor practice facility, the men haven't always seen eye to eye. What a difference two short years make.
Lewis seems to now have free reign on his coaching staff and draft philosophy without Brown meddling much. What's more, Brown is supporting Lewis with contract extensions for his offensive and defensive coordinators as well. Now, he's brought Training Camp to Paul Brown Stadium and working with the Cincinnati Reds for neat fan experiences.Things around Cincinnati Bengals football just have a different feel these days.
For how much hate Mike Brown receives, one has to wonder if he is one of the most misunderstood public sports figures. He rarely speaks publicly, nor does he seem to truly embrace the fans, and he constantly spoke of being "competitive". Yet, we should stop and think about things a little differently.
Perhaps Brown is just a bit socially awkward and that's why he leans on others to make public statements about the club's goings-on. Or, there's the chance that he just doesn't feel that being a warm and cuddly figure to Cincinnatians and Bengals fans everywhere is that big of a deal. And, maybe that's because he just cares about winning, like Lewis says.
The difference now is that Brown is listening to others. Probably his own family in the Blackburns, but also to his staff and particularly Lewis. This wasn't the case before, as Brown stubbornly believed that every move he made was a wise one and that everyone who told him differently just didn't know football. That just doesn't seem to be the mindset anymore.
I'll end with this. Think about what has been done to the team's infrastructure and image since Lewis' last extension in 2011 and the one now:
- An overhauling of the team's medical staff. This was a major problem area for years.
- Adding two more area scouts to the scouting department, which was another huge problem area.
- The avoidance of "problem children" in the team's recent drafts and free agency.
- Three extensions given to three of the most important coaches on staff in the same offseason.
- The idea of Brown even open to the idea of an indoor practice facility.
- Trading a "franchise" quarterback, even if the lucrative offer fell into his lap.
There's more, but those are the key points. That's not to say that there are still things that need to be addressed. The team was thrifty in free agency and have one of the league's biggest amounts of salary cap space. They still haven't broken some streaks and haven't won a playoff game since Brown took over. A lot of things can and have been said about Mike Brown, but maybe the man wants to win more than we give/gave him credit for. Maybe he just didn't know how to do win before and he believed he was doing things right. He has been wrong for a while, but he's catching on quickly.