Duke Tobin took his hat off to Pete Brown Wednesday.
INDIANAPOLIS - Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin had an emotional beginning to Wednesday's national media availability. Before putting on his Bengals hat he recognized it was the first NFL scouting combine without Pete Brown, the club's long-time personnel man who died in December.
"Pete spent his life in pro football. This event meant a lot to him. He enjoyed every aspect of this event," Tobin said. "Being here without him only accentuates that loss for us. Pete was a leader for us. He was a mentor to us. He was a friend to everyone he met."
Brown had been synonymous with Bengals personnel for all 50 years, but Tobin has enough sense of history to know it went beyond that.
"His contributions to pro football are numerous," Tobin said. "He was instrumental in bringing football to Cincinnati. And I think for that we all owe him a pretty good debt of gratitude. So here's to Pete."
PAULIE G. LIVES: Like everything else, new Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is effusive in his praise for his new defensive coordinator, Paul Guenther, the man he lured to Oakland after four seasons in Cincinnati. This was the Carlo's and Johnny's package. Guenther and then Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden bonded at the suburban Cincinnati eatery and it extended to his brother. On Wednesday Jon talked about how he admired watching Guenther and his players, particularly his linebackers.
"It goes back from my days visiting Jay in Cincinnati, getting to know that coaching staff," Gruden said. "(Mike) Zimmer was the defensive coordinator, Guenther was the linebacker coach. I thought that was an excellent staff that (head coach) Marvin Lewis had and every time I had the Bengals on Monday Night Football, I was always impressed with the way he coached, on the field, taking advantage of the time in pre-practice, post-practice, and what he got done with Vontaze Burfict, Vinnie Rey, very impressive."
Gruden traced the excellence to the days of Zimmer, a stretch when Guenther emerged as his third-down guru. He's not concerned Guenther blitzes once every blue moon.
"I think their defense is a problem. I think the Bengals are blessed with a lot of really good personnel and the middle of their defense I think has been strong, obviously, with Geno Atkins and Burfict and Reggie Nelson when he was there at a high level, and a lot of first-rounders that allowed them to do a lot of cool things in the secondary," Gruden said. "But I do like the pressure package. They don't always bring it. But the illusion of pressure is a problem. But he gets guys to play, they don't make mistakes. They have some really good coverage principles and they mix it up, which is hard to deal with, but he's a big reason I think the Bengals have had success and if we're successful on defense, he'll be a big reason why."
INSTANT REPLAY: OK, maybe not that instant. But go back to 2004 when Browns head coach Hue Jackson was the Bengals wide receivers coach and his quarterbacks coach, Ken Zampese, had the same job for the Bengals. They saw Lewis anoint 2003 overall No. 1 draft pick Carson Palmer as the No. 1 QB 14 years ago Thursday, only after a veteran in Jon Kitna served as a bridge to play QB for a year. Jackson said it's ideal that the rookie doesn't have to play right away and he and Zampese have lived it as they mull taking a QB with that No. 1 pick.
"Obviously having Kenny there and me and him going through that before will be an experience that we've had before," Jackson said, but went out of his way to recognize new GM John Dorsey. "John has had a tremendous amount of experience of dealing with quarterbacks and putting the good guys on the team and when we
play them and when we don't play them, so we'll take all of that stuff into account as we go through this. Again, we haven't made any decision about who's going to
be first, second, or any of that. I think it's too soon, but again, we'll use all of our experience. John's experience, my experience, Kenny Zampese's, (offensive coordinator) Todd Haley's experience to make the decision for us.