Bengals rescue owner's reputation

Bengals owner Mike Brown arrives at a hotel for a meeting with NFL owners in Chantilly, Virg.,...

Bengals owner Mike Brown arrives at a hotel for a meeting with NFL owners in Chantilly, Virg., March 2, 2011. (ROB CARR/Getty Images/AFP)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:55 PM ET

TORONTO - On the list of people in the NFL who have made the greatest strides in the current season, no one comes close to Cincinnati Bengals president and owner Mike Brown.

Brown is a man who knows what it is like to be despised.

His penny-pinching ways and control issues have all but made him an outcast in his own city.

But 2011 has been very, very good for Mike Brown.

So good that we would put him ahead of the likes of San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh, Carolina’s Cam Newton, Buffalo’s Buddy Nix and anyone else enjoying an unexpectedly good start to the 2011 season as the man whose reputation has made the biggest rebound.

Of course the argument could also be easily made that Brown’s reputation had further to rebound than the others as well.

The turnaround for Brown and the Bengals began on draft day when the team not only scored wideout A.J. Green with their fourth overall selection but picked up the guy who would help make Green look so good on Sunday afternoons. That would be quarterback Andy Dalton who slipped all the way to the second round where the Bengals snapped him up with the 35th pick.

Now stellar pass-and-catch combinations — the likes of which Dalton and Green are slowly starting to resemble — rarely come around and it’s even rarer still that they both come from the same draft class.

Whether it was Brown, who has had more than his fair share of busts on draft day, or as has been suggested by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the coaching staff that talked Brown off Ryan Mallett and onto Andy Dalton, only Brown and his staff know for sure.

If you believe Marvin Lewis inherited the unofficial title of GM when he signed his extension last January and is quietly behind this new successful draft strategy so be it. For long-suffering Bengals fans, the circumstances are really irrelevant.

But draft day, it turned out, was just the beginning.

Brown, who took plenty of heat for his reluctance to deal an unhappy Carson Palmer for something the team could use because he didn’t feel like rewarding a player he felt had quit on his team, eventually relented. When he did he hit the mother lode.

In exchange for Palmer, Brown landed the Raiders’ first-round choice this year and at least a second, and possibly another first the year after depending on how successful the Raiders are with Palmer.

Brown has been getting the majority of the credit for this one too although there remains a faction of fans and some in the media who believe Lewis was pulling the strings on this deal.

So now, not only do the Bengals see hope for the future on the field, they have stockpiled picks to add to that depth.

For Brown, again whether it’s his doing or him finally ceding some control to the football people he employs, it’s the kind of season that can do a lot to make up for what has been 20 years of futility.

Normally Brown’s teams come into November reeling. In fact eight times in the 20 years since Brown took over the team from his father, the Bengals have been winless throughout October.

Not so this year. The Bengals were a prefect 4-0 in the month of October thanks largely to a smothering defence and some unexpected stellar play from their fine young rookies on offence.

The team sits at 5-2 and while there are still plenty of games to play and plenty of people anticipating a drop-off owner Mike Brown can at least enjoy the fact the outcry for him to sell his team and turn it over to someone who wants to win has at least been quieted to a dull roar.

It was only two years ago that Brown was named the second worst owner in the NFL, trailing only the legendary Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders. Davis, since deceased, is out of the running, but it would be very interesting to see where Brown is on that list at the end of this season.

He’ll always have his detractors in Cincy but who knows what a playoff year and possibly the first playoff win in Brown’s tenure could do for the man.

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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