Actor/writer/director Rob Reiner has a great line about following his father – Hollywood and Broadway legend Carl Reiner – into the family business:
“I want to thank my dad for not being a proctologist,” said Rob.
It’s hard to imagine Mike Brown using the same line, but I’m sure that he feels the same way.
Professional football has been the Brown’s family business since 1946 when Paul Brown was hired to coach the Cleveland franchise in the AAFC.
“This whole life is what matters to me,” Mike told me. “I like the players, I like the practices, I like the coaches, I like the fans, I like the whole show. It’s a big circus. Every day is different and thank God for that.”
The Bengals president has been attending NFL training camps since he was 10 years old and he savors the start of another season.
“I’m excited for the same old reasons – there’s nothing new with me,” said Brown. “I’ve been doing this for 44 years here with the Bengals and I did it before I was here. I look forward to seeing the players up and at it. They’re all fascinating to me to watch and we’ll see how the team comes together. That’s the essence of what I do, so it interests me and I’m excited about it as always.”
After the Bengals went 9-7 and made the playoffs with a rookie quarterback last year, Brown was named NFL Executive of the Year by Pro Football Talk and Peter King of Sports Illustrated. With a young nucleus led by four Pro Bowlers under the under the age of 25 (Andy Dalton, Geno Atkins, Jermaine Gresham, and A.J. Green), the Bengals appear to be building a team that can contend with Pittsburgh and Baltimore for supremacy in the AFC North.
“We think our future is bright,” said Brown. “It’s not easy in this league. Every team thinks that its future is bright at this time of the year, but we’re ready to go with them. I think they’ll get better and improve and I look forward to seeing how we can do.”
The next big step for the Bengals is to win a playoff game for the first time since 1990. Until that happens, Brown knows that his critics will remain vocal.
“I think everyone is bothered by criticism, but I was brought up to believe that everyone has a right to say their piece,” Brown recently told Fox 19’s Joe Danneman. “Nothing says that I have to shut up – I can speak up if I feel sufficiently compelled so I’m not crying about it. The fact that people feel emotional about it or want to jump in – that’s good. I want them to be involved, that’s the first step, even if they don’t approve of what you’re doing.”
One of Brown’s critics has been Reds announcer – and Bengals fan – Marty Brennaman. But the Hall of Fame broadcaster reconsidered his opinion after the two of them met for lunch.
“It was sensational,” said Brennaman. “That’s the only way that I can put it, and that’s not a suck-up comment. I was bowled over by his storytelling ability – the stories he told about his dad, and the stories he told about former great players in the National Football League that he’s rubbed elbows with over all the years. In fact, I told his daughter Katie in the middle of the lunch that he ought to write a book, and he said, ‘I have no interest in writing a book.’
“I’m a Cincinnati Bengals fan and I’m no different from anybody else. Now maybe I have a public forum that other guys don’t have, but I want them to win. When they had that long run of futility, I got a little PO’d, and I’ve been very outspoken about him. I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that after having lunch with him – and we will do it again in the future – that I take a slightly different look at Mike Brown.”
After a lifetime in football, the Bengals president knows that fans won’t be fully satisfied until the team wins a Super Bowl. He feels the same way.
“I would like to do that in my lifetime and that’s a big goal for me,” Brown told Fox 19. “You can put that at the top of my agenda.
“People are entitled to see me however they wish to see me. I’m pleased with the fact that we’ve done better here recently, and we want to do even better. Our goal is what you would think it is – we want to be the top dog. “
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