All for Akili

9-29-02, 4:10 p.m.

No surprises here. Akili "Landslide," Smith has plenty of support in all counties of Bengaldom as he draws Sunday's start against Tampa Bay.

A sampling of Hobson's Choice:

First of all, I have always felt Akili was the answer to the struggling offense. My question is why would the bengals coaches, and management pass on "the athletic style" type of quarterback. NFL teams now seems to be going with. Quarterbacks that now pose another threat besides passing. In a nutshell what was the hold up as for as letting Akili develop. Was his preparation for games that bad? **Travis, Cincinnati.

TRAVIS: The Bengals never had a problem with the "athletic quarterback," of which you speak since they gave up plural draft picks to take him. But he has been held back by a combination of things.

He'll tell you himself that a lack of maturity and preparation contributed to his problems. But the Bengals also have to take responsibility for trying to force feed the West Coast offense down his throat with a corps of young receivers. Also early in that aborted experiment of 2000, he wasn't protected enough with the running game and he never recovered from the "deer-in-the-headlights," syndrome when he was asked to throw 50 passes on Opening Day 2000. There's plenty of blame to go around.**

Haven't the Bengals shot themselves in the foot by not giving Akili Smith the snaps needed to develop as a QB in the NFL? Sometimes I wonder if the QB problem may be solved by now if they just would have let him go through the growing pains as the Browns have done with Couch and countless other teams wiht star QBs. I think the Bengals have become so jittery about the quarterback position they can't see straight. What do you think? **Jason, Columbus, Ohio.

JASON: It's a legit take on things. The problem is, when you've

been down for so long, and everything is taking on water with dwindling crowds and intense public heat to win, it's hard to sacrifice any season in the name of rebuilding and you're almost forced into the quick fix. Part of that was at work in 2000 when Smith got benched, but you also have to remember how badly it was going for him. He was getting worse and there was a real concern he would be mentally left for dead for good if he started all 16 games.**

Geoff, Thanks for your great coverage of the Bengals. You have a tough job. I've officially given up on Mike Brown's boys. Actually, I gave up after the Browns game and watched the Falcons game the same way one might watch "Faces of Death, Part VI." I actually rooted for a Falcons blowout: even though almost nothing will change Mike Brown's small mind, continual humiliation -- especially on national TV -- is probably our only hope.

This year has to be on the coaches. No way does Carolina have more talent than Cinti -- Rodney Peete, are you kidding me? Kenny Anderson and Al Roberts have done nothing to keep their jobs and now I wonder about Brat's offense. Every week, Dave Lapham notes that it's almost like the other team has their playbook, they ALWAYS know what to expect. The routes are predictable, the play-calling even more so.

Except for Duffner and Jim Anderson, when was the last time another team tried to hire away a Bengals assistant? Jim McNally (that guy was a god) maybe? You still see some of the Wyche and even Shula assistants turn up in the league, but none of Coslet or LeBeau's. Watching teams like the Steelers and Patriots just makes me sad -- real coaching staffs with real vision.

ESPN's Suzy Kolber was talking about how the Falcons sent Vick to a speech coach over the off-season -- he's naturally soft-spoken and quiet, and they wanted him to learn to be more assertive and authortative, both with the media and in the huddle. Another team -- can't remember who -- hired a retired referee to be their instant replay consultant at every game. When's the last time you heard of the Bengals doing something like that? They can't even get waste-of-a-draft-pick Peter Warrick to wear his damn contacts.

So, my question is: why aren't the Bengals coaches getting more heat? Yes, the players have to produce, but LeBeau and company clearly cannot motivate, teach, or game-plan. It's pathetic. I feel bad for Dillon, Simmons, and Spikes.

I'll continue to read about them much the way one might read about wrestling or a soap opera...the carnage and the level of dysfunction and patheticity (they're so bad, I had to make up my own word) is fascinating. Go Bears! **Dave, Newport, Ky.

DAVE: No one is getting away with anything these days. The head coach. The coordinators. The assistants. Mike Brown. Brown read the riot act to the coaches after the opener, so there is plenty of heat for a staff that has virtually no excuses with last year's No. 9 defense back and the offense in its second season with the same scheme.**

It has been twelve years since we have had a winning season. This is after only two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance.

I understand small market teams do not always have the money to do what is needed, but it is time to find a coach and a quarterback you can let develop into system which can win. I agree with Kitna on continuity.

The Bengals drafted Akili Smith #1 in '99 and ALLOWED him to start a few games. Give him an opportunity to learn in battle for a season or two. If he doesn't make the turn, move on but let's see what he can do over more than a FEW games.

Another thing, let the coaches coach. Management is there to get the coach what material is needed to win. Let the coaches coach. If no success then make the necessary move. **Tony, DeFrancis, OK.

TONY: Most of Bengaldom would agree that management has given this team enough talent to win. Check out the experience, the salary cap numbers, and the number of high draft picks in key roles, and this is a solid roster.**

I believe starting Smith is the right move. I hope that his contract situation (1600 yard escalation clause) had nothing to do with the initial situation with Frerotte. Smith deserves this shot. Had we not given him a shot and he panned out elsewhere, we would have looked like fools. **Kevin, Columbus, Ohio.

KEVIN: If he passes for 1,600 yards this season, Smith is due about $6 million over the next two years. If it had been a factor, he wouldn't have seen the light of day until November.**

Why are the Bengals rotating all their receivers? I understand they are all playing well, but isn't it going to be hard for a QB who's taken less than 10% of the snaps in practice this season to sink up with so many men? **Alan, Washington, D.C.

ALAN: Injuries. They had hoped one or two guys would have emerged by now. But Danny Farmer (knee) has missed three games, Michael Westbrook (wrist) hasn't been able to get in sync after missing most of training camp, and their best preseason player, T.J. Houshmandzadeh has been hampered with a groin problem all season. To complicate it, Peter Warrick and Chad Johnson haven't played to their draft status.**

Jeff, Love the website. I think it's the best in the NFL, as I've seen all the other teams' sites.

If Akili can finish the season, and get us to 6-10, 7-9, even 8-8 (or better), what happens to Frerotte? He's only signed for this year, correct? I don't think he'd stick around to be Smith's backup.

Something else that needs to happen: uniform change. Anyone else remember the last time the Bengals made a drastic uniform change? They went to their first Super Bowl. (I realize it may be delusional, but at this point, anything is worth a shot).

Finally, have you heard rumblings around the organization that Mike Brown will hire a GM? The impression I'm under is, he dispelled that rather quickly at the post-game news conference last Sunday. Has he contemplated such a move?

Thanks, and keep up the fantastic work! **Tim, Troy, IL.

TROY: Thanks for the kind words. The sense is the loser of the Frerotte-Kitna derby won't back, and in your scenario Smith would return as the No. 1. But with Frerotte on a one-year deal, he would only return if he was No.1. Kitna has two years left on his deal after this one.

Bengals equipment managers Rob Recker and Jeff Brickner are always tweaking the uniform, but there are no indications of a 1981-like massive design overhaul.

Mike Brown is going nowhere. He made that pretty clear last Monday after the Atlanta game. if there are changes, it will probably be with the coaching staff.

But only if it continues to go like this. Brown is still focused on this season and thinks '02 can be salvaged. But he also knows time is running short for that.**

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