TDBH: P.B. taps disciplinarian Gregg as head coach

Posted Dec 28, 2017

This Day in Bengals History - December 28, 1979

After back-to-back listless _ and worse to the Hall-of-Fame owner _ sloppy four-win seasons, Bengals president Paul Brown dips into his past today and hires a head coach in the mold of his good friend and late Packers head coach Vince Lombardi. Forrest Gregg, the Pro Football Hall of Fame left tackle Lombardi called his greatest player on his two Super Bowl championship teams, brings his well-known iron fist to a team well-known for its lack of discipline. At today’s news conference Brown says Gregg is the only man he talks to about replacing Homer Rice and he beams with delight that Gregg has extracted himself from the two years he has remaining on his contract with Toronto of Canadian Football League. “And I’ll say this, you won’t see any fat players walking around,” Brown hisses. “We think he’s a darned good football coach. He’s a fundamentalist, an intense, disciplined guy.” Then Brown heads far off to the side and let’s the 46-year-old Gregg lay down the law. First, though, Brown does a gag for the cameras and raises his right hand promising to let Gregg hire his own assistant coaches, a shot at his critics ripping Brown for hiring puppet coaches.   “I’m not in the business of football to be loved,” Gregg says. “I’m here to win football games the best way I know how.”

Gregg is a veteran of the Bengals’ AFC Central, where he coached the Browns from 1975-77 before getting fired. In 1975, his last season as coach, Brown loses one of his three games to the rookie Gregg’s Browns and even though some Cleveland players assailed Gregg’s harsh ways on his way out the door, that’s why Brown hires him. “I think if I had never met the man I would still be basically the same kind of coach,” Gregg says of Lombardi. “There’s some hard-and-fast things I demand _ conditioning and discipline.  I also believe in a game of aggression. There’s no excuse for (a lack of effort.).” Gregg’s brown pin-striped suit is characterized as conservative and it matches his approach.  “I like Ohio. The Bengals have good personnel, a sound organization and I have tremendous respect for the man at the top,” says  Gregg, alluding to Brown, standing way off to the side. Brown stands by his pledge as Gregg decides to retain three of the seven assistants that Brown fires just a few days ago: offensive line coach Mike McCormack, offensive backfield coach George Sefcik, and Frank Gansz, special teams and tight ends.

Two years from now Gregg leads the Bengals to their first Super Bowl and the year after that to one of the best records in football during the 1982 strike-shortened season. Today’s words ring truer than his suit: “I think there is enough talent here to win,” Gregg says. “What we have to do is put that talent together and get it going in the right direction.”

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