IF I OWNED THE BENGALS……

O.K., I probably don’t have a dog in this fight because several years ago I swore off the Bengals. The Mike Brown years have completely ruined my taste for the Bengals. When I worked in Wilmington at WDHK radio, I had the only radio program that twice a day had an on field interview with Coach Paul Brown.

Mike usually walked around on the field with a panama hat on doing…well, nothing. Paul Brown was a football guy, Mike is a finance type guy. Although I have changed my allegiance back to the teams of my youth, the “Helmet Teams” (the teams I thought had the neatest helmets; the Vikings, Cardinals, Rams, and Eagles), I still follow the Bengals, I guess because old bad habits are hard to break!

Anyway, now that the NFL draft is closing in, I imagine what it would be like to own an NFL team? That has to be a great feeling of accomplishment! However, because you are such a public entertainment entity, you have a lot of responsibility and duty to your fans. Some owners get it, some don’t. I’m not saying that Mike doesn’t get it, but……he doesn’t get it.

NFL owners make tons of money. Most stadiums are funded in part or solely by taxpayers who expect some kind of return for their dollars. That usually means a winning attitude. I realize that and often thought that I would be a good owner.

I would do my very best to make a team that was competitive, was conscious of their duty to give back to their community, and did nothing to embarrass the club or town. I think that is what most owners try to do. The NFL is full of good people and players who do things right, but we only hear about the bad ones.

So, let’s pretend that I am a gazillionaire and have bought the majority ownership of the Bengals from the Brown family. What would be the first thing I would do? Personnel would be at the top of the list, over finances (I’m a gazillionaire, remember?) Why? Because in my business the rule I have always lived by is “Hire good people and let them do their job!”

I would first look at the scouting and personnel departments. It seems to me that the Bengals ALWAYS seem to make some really bad choices. I believe they subscribe to a scouting service also, but their own scouts need to make sure of what they see in people.

I need talent evaluators who “evaluate”, not fall in love with the hype. I sometimes wonder what they are thinking. Next, I would look at the people in the front office. I am sure some are pretty good I am sure others……well, we will see. I want aggressive, well thought out people who are NOT yes men or women. I want them to tell me what THEY think, not what they think I want to hear.

I am not sure what goes on with the Bengals, but I do know that once Mike makes up his mind (Akili Smith over Jeff Blake, remember?) there is no turning back. Next, I would find the very best salary cap person I could find, although I do think Katie Blackburn does a good job. Nothing is worse than overpaying for talent, or undervaluing talent either.

I do know enough about football after watching Paul Brown for a year or so that we will build from the inside out. Paul Browns very first draft choice was Bob Johnson, a center from Tennessee. He knew. He got it…I am not sure the Bengals do, as I have heard from newspaper sports writers that Mike doesn’t quite believe that.

Of course, I am old school like coach (he either wanted to be called coach or Paul!). I am a total believer that it all starts up front, on the offensive and defensive lines. They are the key for any football team. Of course, a good quarterback is a necessity. He needs a good arm, but his leadership ability, somebody the team will rally around, and his character is just as important. If I get these things right, everything else will fall into place!

Now, in my first draft pick as owner in the year 2021, whom do I pick? I have my franchise quarterback, but I can’t keep him upright long enough to be a franchise quarterback. Joe Burrows got killed last year (I told some of my Bengal friends he wouldn’t last the year….).

This draft is loaded with quality line talent, so……I try to trade out of my 5th overall choice to acquire more talent in rounds 2 thru 4, along with the team I traded with that includes their first round pick.

Almost all analysts want the Bengals to take Penei Sewell, the tackle from Oregon. If I can’t get value for my #5 pick, Penei Sewell would be a good choice…HOWEVER, the top 5 tackles in the draft you could throw a blanket over, they are all good.

I would rather have Rashawn Slater from Northwestern. Some analysts think he is too short and his arms aren’t long enough. I totally disagree! (watch a tape of him against Chase young of Ohio State…..you will see what I mean!). He might be a little short for a tackle (6’4”) but he is a mauler, a tactician, and he is relentless. He also would be used to playing a majority of games in bad weather.

This is where my scouts would come in, if they were unanimous and adamant on Penei Sewell, or Alijah Vera-Tucker from USC, or anyone else, as long as it is a lineman, we go with that. They just better get it right!

Well, there it is, my first draft pick as gazillionaire owner of the Cincinnati Bengals. I think it would be on the right track for a franchise that has floundered with consistency and success for years. Wow! I just thought of this; instead of people saying “Mikey Brown”, now they will say “Mikey Stegall!” I hope with a little less ridicule and sarcasm, but that will have to be seen if I know what I’m doing! That’s the way I see it from the sidelines.

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By Michael Stegall

From the Sidelines

Contributing columnist Mike Stegall a 27 year former OHSAA high school football official and current Darke County Commissioner