Bruce Coslet ought to be bucking for a raise by now. He should strike while the iron sizzles. He should storm into Mike Brown's office, slam his fist upon the desk and demand that his temporary position be made permanent.
He should use his leverage while it lasts.
The interim coach of the Cincinnati Bengals couldn't have any more bargaining power right now if he showed up for work in a M1A1 tank. Sunday's 41-31 shootout victory over the Atlanta Falcons was Coslet's fourth in five tries following Dave Shula's 1-6 start. The new coach has exceeded expectations, engendered enthusiasm and is approaching a popularity plateau where personal seat licenses could become almost palatable.
If Brown doesn't sign him up soon, he may be looking at a bidding war by season's end.
''I'd be shocked if Bruce hasn't been contacted by other teams in this league,'' said Dave Lapham, the Bengal lineman-turned-radio analyst. ''I'd certainly contact him if it's legal.''
Demand for miracle-workers has always exceeded supply in the National Football League. If Coslet's finish is anything like his start, he could probably have his pick of half a dozen head coaching jobs when his obligation to the Bengals ends in January.
Cut to chase, Mr. Brown
Mike Brown can't afford to lose a successful coach in the middle of his campaign to sell luxury boxes and premium seating for a new stadium. You know this. I know this. Brown knows this. Bruce Coslet knows this.
So why not stop the suspense, avoid any unnecessary anxiety and reward a job remarkably done in time for Thanksgiving? Why not call Coslet in this morning and offer him a five-year contract?
''We've done better,'' Brown said Sunday. ''It's obvious. But we still have another month to go in the season and I don't have anything to tell you at this moment.
''I'm pleased with how we've been doing. But no, I haven't spoken to Bruce about this.''
Neither is Coslet inclined to force the issue. While he has coaxed competence from his players with a direct, demanding approach, he has quietly acquiesced to Brown's timetable.
''I'll let you guys conjecture all you want,'' Coslet told a reporter Sunday. ''I went into this with eyes wide open. I said yes under the terms that he (Brown) set. And so I'm trying to do the best I can, one (game) at a time. That's all I can handle, really. That's not just coach's talk. That's true.
''Am I worried about it? There will be other opportunities. I wasn't worried when they fired me with the Jets. I had three or four opportunities and I elected to come back here.''
Coslet worth multiplies
Had Coslet not returned to Cincinnati as Shula's offensive coordinator, the Bengals would surely have missed out on Jeff Blake. Had he not succeeded Shula as head coach, the Bengals might easily have blown off the second half of the season.
Instead, the players have been inspired. Coslet has so far faced a softer schedule than Shula's, but he has yet to allow a letdown against a lesser team. His only defeat was on the road against mighty Buffalo. With four games to go, there is no team left on the schedule that the Bengals can't beat.
''We're doing our best to keep him around,'' said Joe Walter, the offensive tackle. ''We like what's going on. We like the way he treats us. I think he's put the fear of God in us.''
Several Bengals have cited Coslet's confrontational style as a positive change in team chemistry. Athletes respond to different stimuli, but football players often prefer to be challenged rather than cajoled.
''When the big-play guys are supposed to be making the plays and they're not making plays, he'll get on 'em in front of the whole team,'' said cornerback Jimmy Spencer. ''He'll say, 'Hey, look. You're not playing well. You need to pick it up.' Sometimes you need a kick in the behind.''
If Mike Brown needs a little nudge to keep Bruce Coslet, a kick in the behind could be beneficial.
Published Nov. 25, 1996.