Monday, January 24, 2011

Palmer's Demand Places Spotlight On Troubled Bengals Franchise

Carson Palmer wants out of Cincinnati. The Bengals aren't going to accommodate him. And so goes this franchise.

The Cincinnati Bengals are in the Los Angeles Clippers range of horribly-run sports franchises. There are others who get that bad for a little while, but not many that state there and act like nothing is wrong at all.

This is a franchise that hasn't won a postseason game in over 20 years. Not-so-coincidentally that coincides with Mike Brown's sole ownership of the team. In that span, the franchise has had just two winning seasons and two playoff appearances. They've had 11 seasons with at least 10 losses in those 20 years. They've had numerous off-field player incidents. In Brown's reign, the Bengals needed the fewest amount of games to reach 200 losses from an owner and the most games to reach 100 wins. They are the only team over the last 20 years with three separate 9-game losing streaks.

They have a contentious relationship with Hamilton County due to the building and upkeep of Paul Brown Stadium. They have no personnell director as Brown makes all decisions. One of Brown's first "decisions" was to fire highly regarded Sam Wyche and hired Dave Shula (who would go on to lose 50 games faster than any coach in NFL history).

The team reportedly employs just one scout. The front office is made up of Brown's relatives.

But that's all just a biography of Brown and the case against him running the franchise. The fans in Cincinnati know this, have known this and have put up with this for two decades.

However, it seems the tides are changing. In a recent Cincinnati Enquirer poll of season ticket holders, 2/3 of them said they wouldn't be renewing their seats. Many said with Cincinnati's baseball team, the Reds, looking like an organization on the rise that those consumers will buy Reds season tickets.

So what was the boiling point? What makes this winter different than the 20 winters before it?

Simply, the press conference.

Bengals fans had this hope ... and I mean it was tangible in town ... that with Marvin Lewis' contract expiring and his "change things or I'm not coming back" stance, the Bengals may be finally willing to change some things up. It surprised many, then, that Lewis said he'd come back to the Bengals -- he signed a new deal. To fans, that meant that Brown was willing to do the things Lewis wanted to move the franchise forward.

Then the presser.

In the presser, Brown and Lewis sat at the table and essentially defended everything they've done over the last decade together and what Brown has done since 1991. Both were a bit confrontational to the media and refused to discuss any of the items Lewis may (or may not) have wanted from Brown.

In the weeks since, it is apparent that nothing will change. One of the most hated coaches the Bengals have ever had ... offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski ... has kept his job since 2001 despite helming an offense that has completely regressed over the past five years. With all the talented coordinators out there on the market, Bengals fans watch as Bratkowski remains with the team.

There is a perfect storm working against the Bengals right now and it could get dangerous for the future of this franchise. Most of the Bengals home games were blacked out in Cincinnati (the ones that weren't were due to opposing teams' fans buying up a lot of the tickets). You have the prices of tickets, concessions and parking rising in an economy that has hurt the Ohio/Kentucky/Indiana area. You have the Reds who just won the NL Central and have one of the best young teams in Major League Baseball now in line to take on lost Bengals fans. You have one of the worst stadium experiences in the NFL at Paul Brown Stadium.

Even worse, you have a young fanbase that doesn't care about this team. With the advent of around-the-clock NFL coverage, kids are wearing more non-Bengals merchandise than ever before. You are more apt to see a kid wearing a Steelers jersey as you would a Bengals jersey.

This Carson Palmer saga only makes this worse. Palmer has never talked bad about this franchise despite having every reason to do so. Him stating he wants out speaks volumes about how bad things really are. The fact that the Bengals refuse to entertain trading him shows that have no touch with reality. Here is a QB whose skills have obviously declined, he doesn't want to be here and whom the fans have lost all faith in. Yet you won't even think about moving him? Not with teams like the Cardinals, Redskins, Bills, Dolphins, Titans, Vikings, Panthers and 49ers in need of quarterback help. You don't think one of those franchises wouldn't give you something of value for Palmer? It would be a seller's market.

Those things have really turned off fans here in Cincinnati. They are sick of it all and, for once, realize they don't have to take it.

*The Sportz Assassin has lived in the Cincinnati area for the last 12 years. He isn't a Bengals fan by any stretch (Redskins, baby!).

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