Longtime Comrade BMN was the first to bring it to our attention that the Bengals loss against the Steelers was the 200th of Mike Brown's career as Owner/GM of the Bengals. His knowledge of putrid owners is impressive, so we asked him to compile his thoughts on how Mike Brown's record setting futility stacks up against other historically pathetic owners. His conclusion: It's worse than you think. Since BMN sent this to us, Mikey kept his reputation alive with his 201st loss against Indy. His entire guest post is below.
The 200th Loss: Mike Brown is Worse Than You Think
Call me somewhat masochistic but there was somewhat of a pleasure to the result of Monday Night’s Steelers-Bengals clash. Not the part about the Steelers winning, of course. This is only pleasurable in a bizarre, everything-is-upside-down universe that I cannot contemplate.
The pleasure was that, at long last, Mike Brown entered the record books for having lost 200 games faster than any owner in NFL history. In 312 regular season and 2 playoff games, Mike amasses 200 losses to only 113 wins and a tie. Combined with his 2008 achievement of the slowest 100th win (game 288) , it felt…dare I say, monumental. As though all those years watching this atrocious franchise weren’t wasted. Don’t we all want to be a part of history?
The pleasure, however, wore off when I read Enquirer blogger Joe Reedy’s take on the occasion. I wish no ill will to Mr. Reedy. He’s pretty new to the Bengals beat and I’m sure that the other items he wrote about left him little time to put much into perspective.
However, in mentioning the bad company Mike Brown keeps, he inadvertently implied either one of two things: 1) Mike Brown can’t be that bad…look at some of these guys, 2) some (not all) of these franchises found their way out of the tunnel. There is a light!
I’m here to tell you that it’s much worse than what this Reedy column might imply. To me, the 100/200 accomplishment means something. Does it mean that—all other factors being equal-- that Mike Brown a worse owner than every single one of these individuals? Maybe, maybe not. But the 100/200 number can be summed up in two sentences, something that can’t be said of any of the other owners on the list:
He stuck around that long just to win 100 games. He got to 200 losses that quickly with no one intervening to do anything about it.
And that’s the meat of the accomplishment. Some of the owners below cut a worse or reasonably equivalent pace. But Mike holds this record and it symbolizes more than present-day accomplishment. It symbolizes a very, very bleak future.
First, let’s look at the man that most would state is the worst owner in history…
But here’s why Mike Brown is a worse scenario than Hugh Culverhouse, Sr. I’m getting morbid here but we all have to die one day. And when Hugh Sr. died, his son instantly had the good sense to realize “I’m not a football guy. My dad’s pissed off the whole city. I’m divesting myself of this mess and getting out of here!” Malcolm Glazer took over and the team gradually marched towards respectability.
Now first of all, I’m not classless enough to put out death watches on anyone so Mikey could be here awhile. However, besides that, did you watch “Hard Knocks” at all last year? Did you see Katie Blackburn’s enthusiasm for running the team? She’s not going anywhere. Did you see her prowess in negotiating with Andre Smith? She’s not going to be any different. Bottom line: whereas Hugh was a mortal with a common-sense son coming up behind him, Mike is leaving a lineage of no-scout-having, lowball-offering, “gosh darn it running a football team is harder than you think!” people behind to ruin football for generations of Cincy residents to come.
2) John Mecom Jr., Saints (1966-1985) – With a winning percentage not that far ahead of dear Hugh (.311), Mecom’s “aints” moniker was well-earned. But this conversation is easy: John sold. 255 games in, he was done. If Mike Brown had sold the team to an outside party at 255 games, we’d have had a new owner at the end of 2006. That would have been five offseasons for the hiring of scouts, for the building of an indoor practice facility, for the hiring of a General Manager and/or specific director of football operations, for an evaluation (and hopefully firing) of the medical staff). That would have been a lot of time for a new, fresh mind to get a lot done.
In the five years after Mecom’s departure, the Saints went 43-36 in the regular season with a playoff appearance. From 1990-2, they made the playoffs three years in a row. The troubles the Saints endured shortly thereafter notwithstanding, a fresh perspective in ownership helped. If the Bengals were in this scenario, we would be looking at a consecutive run of playoff appearances. But they weren’t and we aren’t.
3) Rankin Smith, Atlanta Falcons (1966-2002) - The former “fastest 200” record holder lived in my current resident city and his legacy wasn’t a pretty one. In fact, it lingered into last year as 2009 marked the Falcons clinching the only set of back-to-back winning seasons in their history.
However, first of all-- Mike broke the record. Let it not be said that Rankin was worse because no statistic would bear that out. Furthermore, Rankin could say two things that Mike Brown can’t. One is that he ultimately relinquished day-to-day control in 1990. I’m not arguing that Rankin had some great epiphany that he was incompetent but he at least let go of a deathgrip that Mikey shows no signs of relenting. And two, he did manage three playoff appearances between 1978-1982 and a playoff win in 1978. Paltry numbers to be sure: but one more appearance and one more playoff win in his first 17 years than Mike has accumulated today. Do you know what came after his three playoff appearances? A lot of losing seasons. So what do you think Mike has in store? (HINT: at best one more playoff appearance with one win…and that’s your ceiling).
4) Art Rooney, Pittsburgh Steelers (1933-1988) - Here we have the prized example that AFC North fans might use to try to delude you into thinking that there will be a silver lining to Mike’s ownership. Art’s first 335 games were a disaster, his team cut Johnny Unitas and it’s probably not an accident that Pittsburgh was considered more of a baseball town back in the 1960s.
But Rooney is difficult to contextualize. His teams played in a much smaller NFL than what we see today. In the 12, 14, 16, etc. sized leagues his Pirates/Steelers competed in, it was much easier to take lumps against first-class opponents because you were faced with them more often. Rooney twice had to cope with merging a team (not the powerhouse you’d expect but rather banding a cacophony of misfits). Rooney definitely improved…but how bad he was to begin with is a bit of a deceptive question given the era of his first years of ownership. To take the idea that “the Rooneys started winning, the Browns might start winning too” is an apples-oranges comparison. Evaluating a 1980s owner by 2010 standards can be tricky, evaluating a 1930s owner by those standards is downright impossible.
What’s more, at least Rooney was able to bolster his franchise’s reputation on the behind-the-scenes front by developing a strong rapport with other owners: when Chuck Noll finally began drafting the talent that would become the 1970s Steelers, those talented players didn’t dread going there (I would have…but I’m normal). Hence there was more unity and less player trauma.
Contrarily, Mike’s losing isn’t being punctuated with any behind-the-scenes touch that will at least ensure a stable reputation so that future coaches might fire up players on a Bengals’ legacy. Here’s Michael Silver to tell you all about it.
All four of the previous owners have one large factor that impacts how their teams performed: they were all STARTING FROM SCRATCH.
The 1990 Bengals went 9-7 and beat the Houston Oilers to get the final eight. They were also only two seasons removed from winning the AFC Championship. Mike Brown did not take over a band of misfits. He didn’t have to pick junk out of an expansion draft. Just give Boomer & co. a better defense in the 1991 and 1992 drafts, you’re in the mix. Mike Brown drafted David Klingler and hired Dave Shula to be his coach.
5) Bill Bidwell, Sr., Arizona Cardinals (1972-present) –Taking over in 1972, Bidwell’s Cards have only made the playoffs five times. Their recent Super Bowl appearance came with a recent ceding of football operations power to his sons. In short, Michael & Bill Jr. show promise of knowing what they’re doing. Which means more wins that we can expect from Mike & co.
6) Randy Lerner, Cleveland Browns (2002-Present) - cited by Reedy as a possible contender to break Mikey’s mark, Lerner doesn’t qualify for one simple, astonishingly radical reason. After several years of being an AFC whipping boy, Lerner came to the realization that there was no shame in admitting he didn’t know what he was doing. He brought in Mike Holmgren to be president. There’s no telling how it will turn out: the Browns’ current 3-5 record doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of fan. But that one, simple move said volumes. It said “we’ve tried things a certain way for a reasonable amount of time to evaluate. And upon evaluating, it’s not working. Let’s try something new.”
Mike Brown has had 20 years to evaluate: still no new scouts, still no new practice facility, still the same incompetent medical team, and come January, 10 years of Bob Bratkowski as Offensive Coordinator with no one trying to lure him for an interview and no significant record of accomplishment.
Other owners that shouldn’t enter the conversation, but often do:
Jerry Jones, Al Davis- Meglomaniacal people with Super Bowl rings on their fingers, something Mikey could never have.
Dan Snyder- He spends money and he’s trying. Good? No. Mike Brown’s class? Not even close.
The Fords- admittedly, the Fords have been exceptionally awful, and that 0-16 season was darn impressive, but while Mike Brown stumbled through the 1990s after inheriting a playoff team, the Lions made the playoffs six times.
Bob McNair- Admittedly, the Texans’ brief history has been a brutal one but like the above individuals, the Texans started from scratch. And their 53-83 is still way ahead of the pace Mikey’s Bengals had cut 136 games in (40-96).
To summarize what we’ve learned:
- Most owners that get thrown into this conversation were expansion owners. Mike Brown is the only one in the conversation to take over a playoff team.
- Some bad owners have offspring that have the good sense to get out, some bad owners have offspring with better acumen, Mike Brown’s daughter is Katie Blackburn. Katie doesn’t understand why Andre Smith won’t sign that contract because it’s so much money and wants you to lay off her dad because running a NFL team is really hard. Most other members of the family are already in the organization and are learning from the “master.”
- Randy Lerner admitted he needed a President. Mike Brown pays himself GM bonuses for non-existent accomplishments as GM.
- Some owners started in the 1930s and had to fight headlong against established teams with less dilution in talent. Mike Brown has owned the Bengals in the age of ultimate parity and still hasn’t won a playoff game.
- Selling a team can provide a moral and performance boost. Mike Brown won’t sell the rights to the stadium name, much less sell the team.
- BONUS PIECE OF KNOWLEDGE: The Houston Texans kicked the Cincinnati Bengals’ ass the last two times they played.
Restated: Mike Brown stuck around 288 games just to win 100 games. He got to 200 losses this quickly with no one intervening to do anything about it.
He’s still sticking around.
Roger Goodell came to town on Monday. I don’t see him intervening to do anything about it.
Katie thinks just like Dad. She’s not intervening to do anything about it.
Marvin Lewis still doesn’t have a contract and has a look (and coaching style) of utter resignation. He’s not intervening to do anything about it.
For most, 200 losses would be the end. For Mike Brown, it might just be the beginning. May the football gods help us all.