BY TIM SULLIVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Look for Bruce Coslet to be back. He owns the worst record in the National Football League, and the best chance of coaching the Cincinnati Bengals in 1999.
With two games to play, Coslet stands 2-12, and yet he owns a surprising amount of job security. The reasons are numerous. Our total is 10: CP:Bruce Coslet
1. Cost. Coslet has two years remaining on his contract, and the Bengals have always been reluctant to pay two people to perform one job. Moreover, the going rate for NFL coaches is going up. Green Bay has offered Mike Holmgren a $4 million annual salary if he will remain with the Packers. Another coach might come cheaper, but a good one would probably expect seven figures. A great coach would surely find a more appealing challenge than rebuilding the Bengals.
2. Regret. The Bengals missed the boat once with Bill Walsh, and that sleek ship has long since sailed. Coslet, at least, is a Walsh disciple.
3. Candidates. With the single exception of Forrest Gregg, the Bengals have always hired head coaches who were familiar to Spinney Field: Tiger Johnson, Homer Rice, Sam Wyche, Dave Shula and Coslet. There is no obvious successor on the premises now. Neither offensive coordinator Ken Anderson nor defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has had enough success to justify a promotion. Asked recently who would succeed Coslet if the coach happened to hit by a bus, Mike Brown was strikingly silent.
4. Message. Mike Brown has already fired two coaches in eight seasons, but continues to spare himself despite a record of 38-88 as the team's general manager. Should Brown can a third coach without simultaneously yielding some of his own power, he will be seen as creating a scapegoat for his own shortcomings.
5. Stubbornness. Mike Brown will be ready to yield some of his own power about the time the cows come home driving Corvettes.
6. Loyalty. Bruce Coslet has been a good soldier, carrying out club policies he opposed with the grim sense of duty of a lieutenant leading a charge on an artillery emplacement. When he claimed Lee Johnson was cut because of his net punting average rather than his blunt criticisms, Coslet allowed himself to appear Brown's puppet. No one believed Coslet's story, but Brown had to appreciate the effort to camouflage the company's vindictive actions. Some guys go the extra mile for their employer; Coslet has run a marathon.
7. Tolerance. Dave Shula was 3-13 in back-to-back seasons, but survived to coach 23 more games with the Bengals. Brown's faith in Shula's bloodlines was misplaced, but it would not waver until political considerations (specifically, the campaign to sells COAs for the new stadium) caused the Bengals to pay heed to public opinion. Coslet, whose coaching credentials are far superior to Shula's, deserves at least as much patience as his predecessor.
8. Timing. Cris Collinsworth made this point on his radio show, and it's worth repeating: If Mike Brown is inclined to change coaches, he may want to wait until after next season because of the 2000 move to Paul Brown Stadium. There will be more seats to be sold in the new stadium, and it may be easier to sell them with a fresh new coach instead of a known, oft-conquered commodity.
9. Blame.The most critical mistake of the Bengals' season was one that could have been avoided had Coslet been allowed the authority Paul Brown always insisted a coach needed. The Bengals failed to keep quarterback Boomer Esiason because Mike Brown was slow to react to the fast-breaking interest of Monday Night Football, an oversight made worse by the subsequent signing of the incomparably ordinary Neil O'Donnell. Coslet might have spent blindly to sign Boomer, but there's little doubt he would have gotten it done.
10. Fairness. Are the Bengals better than 2-12? Not with O'Donnell or Jeff Blake at quarterback. Not with a long-neglected offensive line and an eternally listless defensive line. Not with Carl Pickens dropping passes. Not with Tremain Mack in jail. Not with young linebackers who learn slowly. Not with veteran cornerbacks who eschew contact. Not with Vince Lombardi. Not with Paul Brown.
Tim Sullivan welcomes your E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org..