12-16-02, 6:45 p.m.
12-16-02, 10:30 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.
Brown is standing by his assertion the report isn't right and Esiason is standing by his network, but he, too, has a hard time believing Brown is talking to the NFLPA.
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 bringing 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."
GREENING OF BENGALS?: The Bengals' national news is going to keep churning until president Mike Brown makes some kind of a call after the season. Monday's hit is from ESPN, which reports some people around the league are recommending former Vikings coach Dennis Green to Brown to be his next coach. The Bengals' tie that makes it plausible is that Green is out of the Bill Walsh School that first opened for business under Paul Brown in the early days of the franchise. . .
Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau raised media eyebrows when he gave the players Monday off for the second straight week. He said it was a routine occurrence when he
played that players had off Monday and Tuesday before coming back to work Wednesday and he thinks it's a good refresher. Fullback Lorenzo Neal, who stopped by the stadium Monday, agreed.
"When you're dying, do you want to be in the hospital or do you want to be at home around your family?" Neal asked. "Of course, you want be home. That's where you get a source of strength, and then you come back to the hospital ready to take some treatment." . .
After former Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason gave Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer a striped helmet Sunday on the air during CBS's pre-game show, he took the USC quarterback aside and told him: "If you do go there and turn it around, you'll be the king of Cincinnati. It's not as bad there as it seems, It's a great town." But Esiason is the first to admit he hasn't looked at the draft long enough to know who the Bengals should take with the No. 1 pick. . .
The quiet scuttlebutt about the 12-men-on-the-field penalty Monday took the heat off the coaches because every player but one got the call that the defense was to stay on the field with cornerback Jeff Burris and wide receiver Danny Farmer dropping back to catch the punt. But defensive back Mark Roman thought it was a different return and left the sidelines to go on the field. . .
Trainer Paul Sparling said Monday that all injured players except defensive end Vaughn Booker (doubtful with a rib cage injury) are questionable for Sunday's game against the Saints at Paul Brown Stadium. The list includes WR Peter Warrick (bruised lungs), CB Artrell Hawkins (thigh), DE Bernard Whittington (groin), CB LaVar Glover (hamstring), and DB Mark Roman knee. LeBeau has some concerns about FS Cory Hall (shoulder).