A couple of years into Marvin Lewis' tenure as the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, the team became a national punchline. For once, it wasn't about their abhorrent on-field play that plagued them throughout the 1990s. These jokes circled around the multitude of arrests of their players, causing some classy one-liners about the troubled Lindsay Lohan as deserving of a roster spot in Cincinnati and the league's annual draft pinning every college player with a checkered past as a future Bengal. We heard the jokes from the ESPN pundits, David Letterman and Jay Leno. They were everywhere.
These lounge act jokes still linger around the team today, even though the Bengals have made a conscious effort over the past few years to largely avoid these types of players. In the team's pre-Training Camp luncheon on Tuesday, Bengals owner Mike Brown gave a rare public interview addressing this subject, telling Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com to blame him for that reputation that still lingers.
But he knows the stigma of the club's slew of off-field problems more than five years ago still lingers and he says, "Blame me," even as the Bengals celebrate four straight drafts of impressive production on and off the field.
"We made a conscious effort to draft and bring in good people," Brown said before Tuesday's kickoff luncheon at Paul Brown Stadium. "I think with (Andy) Dalton and (A.J.) Green as examples, with (Andrew) Whitworth as an example, this is how we want to be perceived. Over the years we've dug ourselves into a hole. I'm probably the one who did it. We brought in guys and worked with them. Sometimes they came around and sometimes they didn't."
It's hard to say when exactly this transformation in philosophy took place, but it can be argued that it started around 2010, depending on how you look at it. It's also possible that with Lewis' contract that he signed in the 2011 offseason, the change in philosophy was something that both he and Brown agreed to.
Brown attributes this change back to his father, Paul Brown, who is one of the most iconic figures in professional football. As the Brown family has shown over the years, they can both extremely loyal and emotional in their dealings with players. Mike says his father Paul displayed this trait often.
"You crossed a line on him (Paul Brown) and your can is out the door before you can count to 10," Mike Brown said. "We're trying to focus on bringing in good people."
Brown also noted that he hopes that the team's second stint on HBO's "Hard Knocks" will showcase the quality people that make up the team's roster. It's these solid guys that make up a strong locker room that seems to have great cohesion. They are also quality players on the field and we are all hoping that that combination leads to a very successful 2013 season.