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Bengals Reps Give Thumbs-Up To NFL's Accelerator Program

Troy Walters (left) coaching Tee Higgins.
Troy Walters (left) coaching Tee Higgins.

Bengals wide receivers coach Troy Walters played for Dennis Green and Tony Dungy, caught balls from Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner, called plays for an undefeated Division I college team and coached the NFL's greatest rookie wide receiver of all-time.

But he never had the chance like he got in Atlanta this past week.

Bengals senior personnel executive Trey Brown has been a team's lead football executive in two different pro leagues and interviewed for an NFL general manager's job by the time he was 32.

But he never got a shot like the one he got when the NFL held a summit at one of its owners meeting as its Accelerator Program opened a window into its decision-makers for minority coaches and front office personnel.

"A great honor that the Bengals selected myself and Troy to go down there," said Brown upon last week's return to Paul Brown Stadium. "I've got a lot of respect for the people I work with here and it's an honor to think they see me in that light. I think Troy Walters is a hell of a coach, so to be teamed up with him was a really great experience."

In an effort to get more diversity in leadership positions on and off the field, the NFL called for teams to send potential minority candidates to the meeting in what amounted to a cross between a workshop and a job fair. There were break-out problem solving sessions, talks with business world CEOs, a cocktail hour with owners, breakfast with general managers and Brown and Walters were two of the 64 participants.

"It was seven days' worth of material in about a day-and-half," said Walters, who had to get back in time to work with Ja'Marr Chase and company in the voluntary workouts.

"It was a tremendous opportunity to be with the top minority football coaches and personnel staff from around the league. It covered everything, really, from preparing for the head coach interview to talking about possible scenarios you'd be faced with as a head coach."

What made this summit so unique was the constant interaction with the owners. From hors d'oeuvres one night to breakfast and lunch the next day.

"That's what it's going to come down to. This is a relationship business," Walters said. "The more the owners know about you and know of you and meet you, so when your name comes across their desk, they have a reference point. That was very beneficial. But also, just being around other coaches. The future coaches and general managers strengthening that relationship. The whole two days were awesome."

Brown has been in those rooms with decision-makers before. He interviewed with the Pegulas in Buffalo in 2016 and with Mark Davis in Oakland in 2018 and then again with Davis in Las Vegas last year.

But it wasn't exactly in an environment like this one. Far from a buttoned-up-here's-my-resume-board-meeting.

"It was good to see those people again and a lot of familiar faces from around the league, especially other people on the scouting side," Brown said. "It was nice to see everyone in that non-interview setting. 'How are the kids? How is the family? How is everything going?' It was a unique opportunity to get comfortable with other organizations in a more casual setting. The league did a great job with that, along with putting together some very good panels with great speakers from outside football."

He was particularly impressed with the appearance of Marvin Ellison, the African-American CEO of Lowe's and one of four minority Fortune 500 CEOs. They also got a chance to speak to him in small groups.

"He did a great job talking about his career and how he became a CEO using some leadership tools for guys to use," Brown said. "It's nice to hear some of the people who are outside football kind of go through some of the same things we do in our business."

Walters was struck by the diverse swath of team executives that gathered in Atlanta, from owners to team presidents to general managers, with the hope every cell could expand its list of contacts.

He particularly enjoyed being inside the actual owners' meeting, as well as Colts head coach Frank Reich's wide-ranging talk that covered preparing for a head coach's interview to what the first 90 days for a head man are going to look like to being one of the faces of the franchise. It reminded him why he has so much respect for his own boss, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, who is also the offensive play caller.

"To see the key decision-makers and how they work, that gave me some insight and enlightened me and really gave me a new-found respect for that," Walters said. "And all the things a head coach has to do. It gave me a new- found respect for Zac. He, along with (offensive coordinator) Brian (Callahan) still has a huge part of this offense, scripting, calling plays. He's got a ton on his plate and he manages it well.

"When you're in it, you don't put yourself in that head coach's seat," said Walters, a two-time collegiate offensive coordinator who was once of the five finalists for the Broyles Award given annually to the nation's top assistant coach. "But in this setting, we were able to break into small groups and talk about different scenarios and things we might do differently and how we would manage it, which was very insightful and helpful."

Both Walters and Brown gave the league a thumbs-up for execution and effort. But they were quickly back from the workshop into the shop working.

"Great experience," Walters said. "I've got an opportunity to be the best wide receiver coach I can be in 2022 by making sure my guys get better."