4 Cincinnati Bengals With Marvin Lewis calling the shots, the NFL's longest-suffering fans have reason for hope

August 31, 2003

New Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is the first man other than team
founder Paul Brown and his relatives to have the authority to
make personnel decisions. So it should come as no surprise that
Lewis is also the first man to bring hope to this moribund
franchise since wacky Sam Wyche was driving game officials,
women's groups and the NFL commissioner crazy as Cincinnati's
coach in the late 1980s.

The air of optimism is the biggest change around these parts. Ask
any of the Bengals. Ask any Cincinnati fan who has had to endure
a league-high 12 straight seasons without a winning record. "When
I'd run into fans in the off-season," guard Matt O'Dwyer says,
"the first thing they'd always ask me is, 'Is Mike Brown really
giving up power?'" Brown, the Club president and one of Paul's
three sons, is good-hearted, but since becoming the franchise's
football architect following his father's death in 1991, he has
graded out as an F. Though Brown hasn't ceded total control to
Lewis, he allowed the new coach to pursue the free agents and
draft the players he wanted.

Lewis, the respected longtime defensive coordinator, also cut
loose nine of the team's 15 assistant coaches, including former
Bengals stars Ken Anderson and Tim Krumrie. He nudged old-school
strength coach Kim Wood, in the job for 28 years, into retirement
and oversaw a $250,000 upgrade of the weight room. He emphasized
speed training and the importance of proper diet. He refused to
beg the team's best defensive player, linebacker Takeo Spikes, to
return, letting him go to Buffalo in free agency. He tried to
convince free agents from other teams that Cincinnati wasn't
Siberia, and good players such as linebacker Kevin Hardy,
defensive tackle John Thornton and cornerback Tory James picked
the Bengals over better teams.

One of Paul Brown's beliefs was that players should use the
off-season to prepare for life after football, meaning the
Bengals had never stressed the off-season strength and
conditioning program. That was O.K. a generation ago, when few
players worked out hard from March through June, but times have
changed. So Lewis implemented the same voluntary (read:
mandatory) off-season regimen that is now standard around the
league. At least 45 players were regular participants in the
14-week program. "So many guys came," says wideout Peter Warrick,
"that we had to split into groups and come at assigned times. The
weight room got too crowded."

"Marvin is in total control," says quarterback Jon Kitna, "and
whatever the situation was before, the players knew Dick LeBeau
[Lewis's predecessor] didn't have that control. I don't care what
anyone says: If the players don't have faith in who has control,
you're not going to succeed. And I can tell through one
off-season and training camp with Marvin, the attitude is 100
percent better. The players think they can win."

More important, the players think they are being given every
opportunity to succeed. "Marvin stresses so many little things
because he says little things lose games," says O'Dwyer. "That
reminds me of what Bill Parcells used to say when I was with the
Jets. Both guys want you to be accountable for everything."

Lewis has looked for every edge he can find. He was adamant about
traveling to the team's three regular-season games out
West--against the Raiders, Cardinals and Chargers--on the Friday
before the game instead of on Saturday. Brown originally thought
it was a waste of time and money, but he came around to Lewis's
way of thinking. "Over the years I've found that when you take
the West Coast trips, or you go to Florida, family comes out of
the woodwork," he says. "I wanted to go out on Friday, let the
players have family time on Friday night and Saturday morning,
then have the hotel become the safe haven for players about noon
on Saturday. Mike was willing to change. So far this job is
everything people said it wasn't. Mike's been flexible."

Indeed, things are looking up for the Bengals. --P.K.

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID DUROCHIK NEW ATTITUDE Kitna says he sees a confidence in the players that didn't exist during his first two years as a Bengal. COLOR PHOTO: NFL PHOTOS SMITH COLOR PHOTO

UNDER THE GUN

--The fourth pick in the 2000 draft, PETER WARRICK has been a
disappointment, with one 100-yard receiving game. The Bengals
need a second receiver to pair with Chad Johnson, and observers
say Warrick has been reborn under coach Marvin Lewis. Maybe the
drafting of Tennessee's Kelley Washington got Warrick's
attention.

ENEMY LINES
An opposing scout's view

"You can't underestimate the impact of a coaching and philosophy
change. Carolina won games last year because of John Fox's
presence and his demands. The same thing will happen here with
Marvin Lewis.... The only thing I can't figure out is why they
let their best defensive player go--and got nothing for him. If
they had put the franchise tag on [free agent] Takeo Spikes,
they could have worked a trade and gotten something for him. To
think that Kevin Hardy is going to be a good replacement for
Spikes, with Hardy's injury history, is ridiculous.... I like
the potential of Justin Smith as a pass rusher, and the John
Thornton acquisition was one of the most underrated moves of the
off-season. He's strong against the run and the pass.... The
secondary is weak, and it won't be fixed by Tory James. He's
poor in man coverage.... On offense the Bengals have two
excellent players: Corey Dillon, who could play for me any day,
and Chad Johnson, a bona fide Number 1 receiver. He's got a big
mouth, but he produces. He's sneaky fast.... Jon Kitna [messes
up] just enough to get you beat.... The line looks leaky to me,
but I love Eric Steinbach. He'll be a solid guard for 10 years."

SCHEDULE

Sept. 7 DENVER
14 at Oakland
21 PITTSBURGH
28 at Cleveland

Oct. 5 at Buffalo
12 Open date
19 BALTIMORE
26 SEATTLE

Nov. 2 at Arizona
9 HOUSTON
16 KANSAS CITY
23 at San Diego
30 at Pittsburgh

Dec. 7 at Baltimore
14 SAN FRANCISCO
21 at St. Louis
28 CLEVELAND

SCHEDULE STRENGTH

NFL rank: 16
Opponents' 2002 winning percentage: .508
Games against playoff teams: 6

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP with 2002 statistics

2002 RECORD: 2-14
NFL RANK (rush/pass/total):
OFFENSE 21/13/18
DEFENSE 22/13/17

COACH: Marvin Lewis; first season with Cincinnati (0-0 in NFL)

COREY DILLON

POS. PVR ATT. YARDS AVG.
RB 17 314 1,311 4.2

REC. YARDS AVG. TDs
43 298 6.9 7

JON KITNA

POS. PVR ATT. COMP. %
QB 89 473 294 62.2

YARDS TDs INT. RATING
3,178 16 16 79.1

CHAD JOHNSON

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
WR 50 69 1,166 5

REGGIE KELLY [1]

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
TE 235 14 162 0

LEVI JONES

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
LT 6'5" 310 lbs. 16 14

ERIC STEINBACH (R) [1]

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
LG 6'6" 297 lbs. 13 13

MIKE GOFF

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
C 6'5" 311 lbs. 13 13

MATT O'DWYER

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
RG 6'5" 305 lbs. 16 16

WILLIE ANDERSON

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
RT 6'5" 340 lbs. 16 16

KELLEY WASHINGTON (R) [1]

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
WR 170 23 443 1

PETER WARRICK

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
WR 157 53 606 6

DEFENSE

RE CARL POWELL[1] 31 tackles 3 sacks
RT JOHN THORNTON[1] 20 tackles 2 sacks
LT TONY WILLIAMS 42 tackles 5 sacks
LE JUSTIN SMITH 61 tackles 6 1/2 sacks
OLB ADRIAN ROSS 20 tackles 0 sacks
MLB KEVIN HARDY[1] 75 tackles 2 sacks
OLB BRIAN SIMMONS 86 tackles 3 sacks
CB TORY JAMES[1] 45 tackles 4 int.
SS MARQUAND MANUEL 34 tackles 0 int.
FS MARK ROMAN 30 tackles 0 int.
CB JEFF BURRIS 62 tackles 1 int.

SPECIAL TEAMS PVR

K NEIL RACKERS 273 30/32 XPS 15/18 FGS 75 PTS.
PR PETER WARRICK 157 4 RET. 3.5 AVG. 0 TDS
KR BRANDON BENNETT 299 49 RET. 25.1 AVG. 1 TD
P NICK HARRIS 65 PUNTS 40.1 AVG.

[1] New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 89)

"The Thornton acquisition was one of the most underrated moves
of the off-season."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)