Mike Brown, who advised his father to put the Bengals in Cincinnati in the 1960s and decided to keep them here in the 1990s, has used the 2020s to welcome a new quarterback and a new generation of fans and that's what he did Wednesday at a Washington Park rally honoring the This Is Us Bengals.
On a day Brown got the key to the city from the mayor of the borough of Burrow, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine quoted Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard and Zac Taylor won another term as Bengals head coach, about 2,000 fans gathered at the quitting time ceremony sponsored by Fifth Third Bank and attended by such Cincinnati luminaries as Ickey Woods and Bootsy Collins
Brown had some help from his friends, an old one in DeWine and a new one in Aftab Pureval, the mayor of Cincinnati for five weeks. So his mayoral record in Joe Burrow games is 3-1, all in the playoffs.
"No team in the National Football League has better fans than Bengals fans," Brown told the crowd. "We played the Super Bowl in the Rams' home stadium and our fans were louder."
Brown gave Taylor an extension through 2026 earlier in the day and to a few chants of "Thank you, Coach," Taylor said, "We heard you here when we beat the Raiders. We heard you in Nashville, Tennessee when we won our first road playoff game. We heard you in Kansas City at the AFC championship. And we heard you in L.A. at the Super Bowl."
Brown predicted another ride for the fans.
"My one regret is I'm not carrying a new trophy," Brown said. "The Bengals are real. The future is bright. You, our coaches and our players are going to have some trip."
Taylor, accompanied by wife Sarah, also brought his coordinators and their wives. Director of player personnel Duke Tobin took a bow. Pureval, six years old and growing up in Beavercreek the last time the Bengals went to a Super Bowl, enjoys being the mayor of the borough of Burrow.
"Joe Burrow represents Cincinnati," Pureval said off stage. "He's young, confident, ambitious. He's hungry. The Bengals have put Cincinnati on the national stage and we're going to be there for a while."
DeWine, a Miami of Ohio student in that Bengals' first season, has been a lifelong fan and visited Spinney Field at least once in the '90s when he was lieutenant governor. He says he's been a season ticket holder since Paul Brown Stadium opened and he reads the papers. He knows, led by Burrow, there are some pretty significant players from Ohio. Hence him quoting Hubbard saying how this team made people happy.
"This is a special team," said DeWine before he went on stage. "It's been a thrill for so many Ohioans to watch this run. It was a great run right up until the last couple of minutes. (Burrow) isn't the only one from Ohio, but he talks about Appalachia and Athens and how proud he is of the people there. I think that's important. It's special."
For the third time the Bengals lost a Super Bowl by one score. For the second time they lost the lead in the last 85 seconds. For the first time they had the ball at midfield with at least a shot to tie.
But before Brown left for the rally, he was vowing not to let it hurt.
"It's hard not to give in," Brown said of the pain. "It's over. It's in the books. There isn't anything you can do to change it. It doesn't do any good to gripe. It doesn't do any good to moan. Just move forward. You hurt for a time. But a week or two later it's not so bad. You get over the hurt.
"It was a close run thing. We had won three in succession like that at the end before we played the Rams. It could have gone the other way. So could have the other three that got us there."
But make no mistake. Rams 23, Bengals 20 isn't going away.
"The experience is with you forever," Brown said. "I remember I couldn't look at the (second Super Bowl) game against the 49ers for 25 years. When it would come on TV on replay, I would just switch the channel. I have to admit I haven't looked at this game on TV so far. It's only been three days.
"I looked at the tape. I saw what I wanted to see. I think I understand what happened. It's in the past now is where it resides with me. "
Brown loves his players. He loves how hard they played on Sunday. "And then some." He thinks a guy like Mixon could be mayor.
"He should run for office. He meets and greets like a politician," Brown said. "Joe is a good spirited guy. His heart is in the right place and he's been a tremendous player for us."
Brown hasn't had a chance to talk to any of the players yet after the Super Bowl and that includes wide receiver Tyler Boyd, a guy that has been known to stop and chat with him at practice.
"Tyler is a real competitor. He's the glue of the receiving corps," Brown said. "When you want to count on somebody, he's the one. He really is a tremendous competitor and I'm very glad we have him. He's been a stand-out player for us. He's someone I've gotten to know and like him. I enjoy it when he comes by."
Make no mistake. Mike Brown loves his players and he thinks Paul Brown would have loved this team. And the quarterback.
"I think so. Joe is a smart player and that shines through," Brown said. "He's accurate, he's tough as nails. We want to do some things to help him.
"This team has what (Paul Brown) prized most. The ability to throw the ball."
Brown says they plan to improve. That starts in two weeks at the NFL scouting combine. At 86, Brown doesn't blink about spending the week in L.A. at practice and then preparing to go to Indianapolis for another week to watch prospects work out.
"I like seeing the players. It gives you an idea of what they can do," Brown said. "You can tell where they are physically, but what's hard to figure out is the want-to."
He knows where the defending AFC North champs stand on that.
"I think we have the core of a top team, we'll add to it and I think we can make it better," said Brown, who knows he may not be able close the book shut until he carries that trophy into another downtown rally.