For years, the Cincinnati Bengals have had the reputation of keeping their fans and many former players at an arm’s length. Many are ready to point directly at owner Mike Brown for the franchise’s mindset in this respect, but the truth is that even his iconic father, Paul Brown, exuded this same attitude while in charge of both the Browns and the Bengals.
In recent years, the team has attempted to begin to make amends in this regard, whether it’s in their creation of fan-centric events or honoring past greats at games, there seems to be a bit of a changing of the guard. The most recent example of this possibility came with this week’s signing of Shayne Graham to a one-day contract to officially retire as a Bengal.
This P.R.-friendly move led us to ask more questions on this week’s Orange and Black Insider. Is this a baby-step toward the Bengals finally looking to retire jersey numbers of past greats? Is a Ring of Honor finally around the corner? Why haven’t other past greats, be it in the Marvin Lewis era or before, been given the same kind of recognition?
We began to wonder if this is yet another symptom of the favoritism we have seen over the years from Lewis and the Brown family. For Lewis, one of his detrimental tendencies has been to make talented youngsters bide their time because “they don’t practice the right way” and/or “don’t know how to be a pro”. Graham was a guy who was always in Lewis’ favor from 2003-2009, despite fan criticism.
Now, this isn’t to say that Graham isn’t deserving of this honor, because he most definitely is. Even though some big misses spring to the cynical fan base’s mind, he also made a large amount of big ones in his seven-year Bengals career. Aside from his on-field contributions, Graham was also a big figure in The Queen City with many charitable contributions.
So, the issues we had with this contract isn’t with Graham, the player. Why hasn’t the team reached out in similar fashions to guys like Chad Johnson, Willie Anderson, Bobbie Williams and so many others? Why, when the team finally makes a gesture that resembles an actual professional football franchise, won’t they let the flood gates open and embrace other greats?
Then again, are we being too hard on the Bengals? For those of us who have followed this team and experienced high levels of frustration and devastation, it’s easy to nitpick the club, even when they finally do things the right way. It’s just the way of the Bengals fan, right?
Regardless, it will be interesting to see if the team ends up taking this gesture to the next level. If the power shift to the triumvirate of Lewis, Duke Tobin and Katie Blackburn is truly ushering changes, more of these contracts and a Ring of Honor should be forthcoming.
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