Mike Brown is well aware of what national pundits are saying about his Cincinnati Bengals. Even he says he can’t blame them for their low expectations.
USA Today predicted a 3-13 finish for Cincinnati, which would put them in a tie for the worst record in the league. But, not surprisingly, Brown has more faith the offseason changes will make a difference for the better.
As the Bengals gear up for the start of training camp Saturday at the University of Dayton’s Welcome Stadium, Brown is looking to new coach Zac Taylor to convince fans of that, too. The Bengals are coming off three straight losing seasons, which led to the firing of 16-year coach Marvin Lewis in January.
“I’m aware of how we have done,” Brown said Tuesday at the annual pre-camp media luncheon at Paul Brown Stadium. “I wish we had done better. And I look forward to the opportunity to try to do better. That’s what we’ve been about this whole offseason. It’s been a lot this offseason. We added a new coaching staff and that’s a big turnover. These are different people, they have different ways for the players, they bring in a totally new system. There will be a lot of learning to do, a lot of catching up to do. … It will rev up here pretty fast starting soon, and that’s good.”
With Brown set to turn 84 in August, his advancing age provides a sense of urgency to see better results. When asked how concerned he is about his legacy, Brown said “it’s multi-faceted.”
“I wish we had won more games,” Brown said. “That will forever be something that disappoints me, but I have to accept it is where it is. I hope that I will have enough time to see a spurt here that will be enough to energize our fan base, get them excited. We know we have to reach out to them to get them to buy in and get them back with us. We disappointed them. You can’t do that as often as we have done. We are paying a price for that. We have to turn it around. If that happens, I’ll leave the stage feeling fulfilled.”
Brown still finds himself learning new things about the game and the way it is being played after all these years. He has been surprised how differently the new coaching staff does things and is especially excited to have a head coach who calls the plays on offense.
Taylor has changed not just the playbook but also the schedule, the way the team practices and conducts meetings and the mentality.
“They meet differently, they practice differently, they emphasize different things,” Brown said. “They have a totally new and different way to call plays. It is stunning to me how different all this is, and maybe that’s a good thing for us to have this jolt. It’ll energize the people in the building from me down to whoever hands out the socks and jocks. We’re all asked to do it a little bit differently.”
After seeing Taylor maneuver through his first offseason program, Brown feels even better about the decision to hire him.
“He’s very composed, he’s a very bright young man, he loves what he does,” Brown said. “He works hard. He loves ideas. He can present them in a way that works. People accept what he says. He’s confident. I think he’s a good package and that it will have a good result.”
Brown still has some concerns about the team, of which he said he will “keep sitting on,” but Taylor and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan might have touched on some of those when addressing some of the glaring issues with the offensive line during their group interviews with local writers.
The Bengals are down a tackle and guard after losing first-round draft pick Jonah Williams to a potential season-ending labrum tear at the end of OTAs and losing Clint Boling to retirement earlier this month because of health concerns. Cordy Glenn is expected to move back to left tackle and Christian Westerman and veteran newcomer John Jerry likely will compete for the left guard spot, but it’s likely the team adds someone to fill the roster spot Boling vacated.
Sorting out the offensive line will be a major focus during training camp.
“The biggest priority right now is establishing our guards and creating that tackle depth,” Taylor said. “And so those are things that we go into camp and we feel like we’ve got the bodies there that are ready to compete and ready to step up and fill those roles. But it remains to be seen. We haven’t had pads on yet, so we haven’t had a chance to see these guys up close in person. There’s some battles that I’m excited to see as we get underway here.”
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