12-16-02, 6:45 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
It's not exactly like it's a new headline around these parts:
"Bengals Quarterback Takes on Front Office."
Boomer Esiason, who mastered the art in the '80s and '90s, has been listening to Jon Kitna call for an attitude change from the top to the bottom and understands the position of the quarterback in the locker room.
"I haven't taken exception to anything Jon has said the last six weeks," Esiason said Monday from Nashville, Tenn., where he is working the Monday Night game for CBS radio. "As a quarterback, you're a leader on the field as well as off the field. If you're playing well enough, there are things you can say publicly if you're talking about things that can't be challenged. To me, it shows a guy that cares deeply about what is going on and is fighting."
Esiason agrees with Kitna in the sense that internal and philosophical factors can have as much of an impact on the game as the game itself. Esiason feels good about the story Bengals President Mike Brown denied after CBS went with it Sunday on the air.
NFL Insider Jay Glazer reported Brown has contacted NFL, NFL Players Association, and team officials about possibly re-structuring the front office. But in the end, Esiason doesn't think Brown is going to give up having final say on personnel and most other football matters.
And, no, Esiason has no interest in the job if it actually comes into being.
"I've heard rumblings like this for a couple of months about Mike talking to people and I haven't been
able to confirm them," Esiason said. "Jay Glazer spends all the time on the phone with these guys and he wouldn't go with anything if it wasn't confirmed two or three times."
But Brown called the report "inaccurate," and before he stopped talking to the media, he indicated earlier this month he wasn't thinking about brining in a scouting guru/GM type to run the personnel department.
But, it is believed that Brown has talked to other team execs who are pushing their own candidates for the possible head coaching vacancy.
Esiason knows one thing. He loves the way Kitna has played the past two months and he thinks it drives home the point.
"The quarterback is not the reason they're losing," Esiason said.
Asked what the reasons are, Esiason asked back, "Where do you want me to start?"
Usually, Esiason's verbal sparring with management centered on upgrading the Spinney Field facilities. How he took home his own laundry to wash in bleach could spark an insurrection back in the day.
"I was in a dog kennel next to a dump," Esiason joked. "What does Kitna have to complain about in that palace?
"But I can see his frustration and rightfully so," Esiason said. "He's probably seeing some of the same things I saw. It's hard to blame the guy. Here he's got this incentive ($1.65 million if he plays 80 percent of the snaps) and they take the job away from him in the offseason and now they're going to be right back where they were at the end of last year. Maybe a little worse because of the record, but pretty much right back at the end of last year. That's crazy."
But Esiason used to talk more about the hand towels and the detergent. He's never been a big fan of the strength and conditioning program and he was always one of the many voices clamoring for more scouts.
"Mike has always taken care of his assistant coaches. They're always pretty well paid," Esiason said. "But he's also got them doing two jobs. There is no way in this day and age you can have the coaches taken away from Xs and Os even during the offseason. You have to split up the jobs and you have to guys looking everywhere. The arena league. Division III."
The image of a pro scout, of which the Bengals don't have a specific one, has stuck with Esiason this season. Esiason bumped into him before a Monday Night game. The scout's team was looking for a kicker and he was charting the pre-game field goals and also recording times from his stopwatch.
"I don't know who would go there," Esiason said, "because who ever does won't have all the power."
At the moment, Esiason won't consider such a move from the broadcast booth to general manager, a la Matt Millen in Detroit.
"I didn't say that," said Esiason when asked if that means he won't consider teams other than the Bengals.
"But right now, I'm having too much fun in my life," Esiason said. "Things are going too good for me to get wrapped up in things like that. Ask Matt Millen about that."