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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Mike Brown is Making Fools Out of Cincinnati Bengals Fans and the City of Cincinnati

Mike Brown is Making Fools Out of Cincinnati Bengals Fans and the City of Cincinnati

No surprise
Publish Date: 11/26/2018
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

I love the way that every Bengals fan will blame Andy Dalton for a loss. Like clockwork, social media posts start as soon as something goes wrong during a Bengals game. Carson Palmer had to withstand the same criticism when he was the Bengals QB.

The problem is this. The only constant with the Cincinnati Bengals since 1991 is one man, and that man is Mike Brown. Why Bengals fans still give this guy their money is beyond me. Let us take a look at the woeful history of Mike Brown giving the Bengals fans the middle finger.

The stadium deal

Back in the mid-’90s, the Cincinnati Bengals threatened to leave town unless they received a new football only stadium. So in Hamilton (where Cincy has a county seat) in all their wisdom, caved like a cheap suit. They agreed to build “The Paul Brown Stadium” and to finance almost the entire project.

The Bengals stadium deal was the most lopsided of any NFL public stadium financing project in history. The problem was compounded by the fact that Hamilton County – paid for it without the help of the state or any of the surrounding counties.

Now, more than a decade after it opened, stadium costs make up 16.4% of the county budget, with almost no benefit to the surrounding area’s economy. (Attendance is actually lower than it was at Riverfront stadium.)

Hamilton County has even had to cancel a planned property tax rollback in order to service their debt in the past.

To make matters worse, Hamilton County’s lease deal with the Bengals is awful. For starters, there’s the requirement that the county pay to add such items as ‘holographic replay systems’ in the event they’re ever invented. I kid you not. Let’s repeat that. The county is paying for something that hasn’t even been invented yet! There are also plenty of items costing taxpayers money in the here and now.

How much money has Cincinnati spent on a stadium for the Bengals? WCPO, a Television station in Cincinnati, ran the numbers:

“Hamilton County taxpayers have spent more than $920 million since 2000 as part of a deal to build and operate Paul Brown Stadium,” Amanda Seitz reported in January 2016. “By the time 2026 rolls around and the 26-year lease between the team and the county expires, the county will have spent more than $1.1 billion on the deal for the Bengals to play in Cincinnati.”

That’s $1.1 billion by the year 2026.

So, in the end, Mike Brown, the Bengals owner, held the city up, and won. The city has been paying. and will be, for the foreseeable future. But wait! I am sure Mike Brown will take some of that stadium money and build a winner, right? Well, of course he won’t because all of this is about making money.

You would think that if Brown had any kind of soul – some guilt would exist for the way he has taken taxpayers money. And maybe just maybe, that guilt would lead him to try to build a winner?

Nope. Wrong again.

 Mike Brown doesn’t care about you

“You” being the fans, media, pundits, prognosticators, Hamilton County taxpayers. The  the organization wants to win, despite what the 1990s may tell you. They want to fill stadiums and sports bars on Sundays and sell jerseys and hats and tiger-striped cornhole seats at Christmas.

But for better or worse, they’ve elected to do so on its own particular, isolated terms. The problem is that Mike Brown is not his father, Hall of Famer, Paul Brown. Brown ran the organization in much the same way, but the difference is that Daddy Brown knew more about football than just about anybody who has ever lived, and Mike Brown does not.

The Bengals came into existence in 1968. Despite having complete control of business and football operations from the start, the Brown family owned only 10 percent of the Bengals. They spent subsequent decades methodically utilizing team profits to buy back shares from investors, until they owned nearly every last one. There was never any question that Mike would succeed his father in running the franchise, in the same way, his own daughter, Katie Blackburn, the team’s executive vice president, will someday succeed him as well.

Paul Brown was fired by the Cleveland Browns. From day one, he swore that he’d always have control of everything. That way of thinking has trickled down to his son and grandchildren.

Controlling coaches

I bet you didn’t know that until 2011, Marvin Lewis didn’t even get to pick who would be active on gameday! If you don’t believe me, read this. 

Marvin Lewis said this in 2011 about his control as head coach in Cincinnati.

“I don’t know where that comes from, because I don’t know if I’ve sat down here and ever said that (that he less than unsatisfied with control over personnel). People keep putting that out there. I have a lot of input in our personnel. It’s Mike’s ultimate say-so.”

So ultimately everything comes down to Mike Brown. But I also blame Lewis. This is why. Why would you constantly take the blame when you really have no final say so on what goes on? After a while wouldn’t, wouldn’t you want to get out of there, before you can’t get another head coaching job?

Brown refuses to build a practice bubble. You would think that, after all the money he saved by having the county build his stadium, that he could build his own practice bubble. Nope, aint happening.

The Bengals look to be heading back to the 1990s

The last few years have started to resemble the lost decade of the 1990s for the Bengals. If you’re too young to remember the 90s, here is a short history of Mike Brown’s first decade as Bengals owner.

After the 1991 season, Brown fired head coach Sam Wyche. He could have hired either Bill Cowher, who would go on to lead the Steelers to a Super Bowl, or the youngest coach ever, Dave Shula. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because his dad is Don Shula, who had ties to Paul Brown. Guess which Shula Brown hired? Shula would only coach the Bengals for 71 games, with a record of 19-52, and became the fastest coach to reach 50 losses. His best record was 7-9.

Shula was also responsible for all of the ignorant draft picks the Bengals had in the 90s. His first pick was quarterback David Klinger, who could not compete at the NFL level. He was cut after the 1994 season. His highlight in Cincinnati was being sacked 87 times in 24 starts. Another pick was Dan Wilkinson, also known as Big Daddy or Fat Daddy as I liked to call him. He was taken first overall when he was projected a late second round. He ended his tenure in Cincy by calling the city racist.

The next pick was Ki-Jana Carter. We don’t know how good Carter would have been because he kept getting injured. Cater was a wasted first round pick. Players passed over so the Bengals could pick Carter included Derrick Brooks, Curtis Martin, Steve McNair, and Warren Sapp.

In 1996 the Bengals finally fired Shula but then hired Bruce Coslet, a man who showed he was the definition of mediocre. But miraculously, the Bengals showed some life. After starting 1-6, Coslet took the team to 8-8. It seemed like the bad years were over. But that was not the case. Although they weren’t terrible, there was nothing there. They brought Boomer Esiason back, and Corey Dillon was an impressive runner. Then Takeo Spikes was drafted, who turned out to be pretty solid. What could go wrong at this point?


The 1999 draft is what. The Bengals had the third overall pick. On the board at this point were Edgerrin James, Brandon Stokley, Torry Holt, and Ricky Williams. How could they screw this up? These were four damn good football players. Who did they choose? Akili Smith.

Even after being offered nine picks by the Saints, the Bengals turned them down. Smith was worse than Jamarcus Russell. Yeah, I said it. Russell may have had talent, but was incredibly lazy and didn’t want to work. Smith was not good. At all. He ended his career after four seasons with 2122 yards, 5 TDs, a 46.6% completion rate, and 13 interceptions.

How do we stop this history from repeating itself? Honestly, we probably can’t.


Fans tried this in the 90s and it did NOT work. Mike Brown is already making a huge profit before the season has even started. Sure, he loses some money, but it won’t hurt him enough to give up any control. So, what should we do?

Save your money.

Doing that doesn’t mean you’re not a true fan. I am almost ready to say at this point, that a true fan of the Bengals would not dignify a Bengals game by being in attendance. Save your thousands of dollars. If you’re a Hamilton County resident, you can recover some of that lost tax money that way.

Just for the love of God, quit caring what this team does until they show that they care about you. How do they do that you may ask? First off, hire a general manager and head coach who are young and passionate. Then build a practice bubble, hire more scouts, start a Hall of Fame or Ring of Fame for all the former great players like, Anthony Munoz, Ken Anderson, Reggie Williams etc.

Do all of that, and I for one will return to Paul Brown Stadium. Without it, I’ll watch from home, hoping against hope that they will win, but knowing the reality of the situation.

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