1-20-04, 6:30 a.m.
1-20-04, 9:45 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
MOBILE, Ala. _ Bruce Coslet, tight ends coach, special teams coach, wide receivers coach, offensive coordinator, and head coach, has re-joined the Bengals in yet another capacity. He re-surfaced here this week at the Senior Bowl as a part-time member of the personnel department, "doing anything they need me to do."
Coslet, 57, working on the last year of a Dallas Cowboys contract, is going to work out of his Florida home as well as travel while evaluating pro and college talent for the club where he played and coached for 24 years. He says he has no bitterness about his 21-39 run as the Bengals' head man during parts of five seasons and says he spent this past season as a fan admiring Marvin Lewis' first year as head coach. But he isn't about to say that Lewis has more power than him or any of the other seven Bengals' head coaches.
"I don't know because I wasn't around it," Coslet said. "Mike (Brown) has always been willing to change. That's a misconception about Mike. When I was the head coach, he always listened to my suggestions. Some of them he had to say 'no.' A lot of the time he said, 'Yes.' With a different head coach, he probably had other ideas. Mike accepted some and rejected others. That's what he does as the CEO. He runs it in the best interest of the team."
Coslet has no desire to re-live his coaching tenure, which ended abruptly after an 0-3 start in 2000: "That's ancient history. No one cares about that anymore. There were a lot of personal and health reasons for it and I thought it was the best for me and best for the team to move on and I think it's worked out best for both parties."
But after spending nine seasons as a NFL head coach (he went 26-39 with the Jets from 1990-93), Coslet couldn't help but notice the things he thought made Lewis successful.
"He came in and established himself as quickly as probably anyone has here," Coslet said. "He's a man's man. He demands respect. Even the modern day player wants to be told what to do. They want to be shown the path. The respect factor is probably as big a thing as there is in today's football.
"I know twice how hard it is as a new head coach," Coslet said. "The job Marvin and his staff did, getting the team up and running, and believing in themselves performing is easy to talk about, but hard to do. You come in, you don't know any of the players, but he did a marvelous job and is well on his way to great success."
Since Lewis arrived a year and a week ago, the Bengals keeping adding to their personnel department as he continues to keep pushing the bulk of the work away from the coaches. Last year, it was former NFL general manager Bill Tobin and former assistant coach John Garrett. This year, Coslet says he'll be mainly evaluating players but will do whatever is asked.
After working a year with the Cowboys' mammoth personnel department, Coslet continues to argue the Bengals' way of doing things is not the wrong way. He says he agrees with Lewis' middle-of-the-road philosophy that coaches have to be hands-on in the scouting process, but can't do as much as they have in the past because of the off-season football demands.
"I've been other places and I still think there are different ways to skin a cat," Coslet said. "At draft time and free-agent time, the Bengals have as much information as anybody. Things have changed with the off-season workouts, the minicamps and the quarterback schools. It used to be it wasn't uncommon a coach would visit 30 to 40 colleges. Sometimes you had to go just to watch film. Now every snap at every school is on tape and you can do a lot if that way.
"But as a coach," Coslet said, "you still need to meet the players here, the scouting combine, and on their campuses."
FIRST LOOK:** Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis ran the North team through its first practice Monday in shorts and shoulder pads, and liked the crispness. He saw only one ball on the ground on a handoff, and he thought players moved pretty well even though some hadn't been in pads for about a month or more. Lewis isn't announcing No. 1s, but it looked like Michigan quarterback Jon Navarre was running with the first team for at least some of the plays.
MARTY BALL: Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer, whose staff is coaching the South, knows full well his fellow Fort Cherry High School alum is 1-0 against him. He also knows Saturday's game won't count in the NFL standings against the Bengals' Marvin Lewis. But as a guy who has won the most real games of any active coach (172), Schottenheimer knows how Lewis turned the Bengals from 2-14 to 8-8.
"With few exceptions in the National Football League, coaching ultimately comes down having to find a common ground with your players and you have to make them believe in what they're doing," Schottenheimer said. "The only way to do that, frankly, is to have success. And that early success they had created a fuel for them and helped them sustain it. He did a great job. You could see how he has raised their level of expectation."
The Chargers have the first pick in the April 24-25 draft, and everyone is ticketing Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning to them. But Schottenheimer says the play of the Bengals' Jon Kitna is more evidence that NFL quarterbacks are made, not born.
"You could have won a lot of money knowing the kind of year he had. I was one of those guys. I didn't think he was a particularly accomplished quarterback," Schottenheimer said. "All of sudden you watch him and the things he did before we played them, when we played them, after we played them, the young man is further evidence quarterbacks don't happen early in this league. It's kind of like a fine wine. It takes just a little bit of maturity."
But that said, Schottenheimer said, "My feeling has always been this: If you have a conviction that a guy is a franchise quarterback, you better look long and hard at taking him. You don't know how (Carson Palmer) is going to be. It's going to be very interesting to see how that competition unfolds. There are very few quarterbacks, the only one that comes to mind is (Dan) Marino, that could step in and do it early on.
"If you look at Brett Favre early in his career, he struggled throwing interceptions after he got traded. That position is unique because skills alone only represent about 25 percent of what a quarterback is."
Schottenheimer says he hasn't even sat down to talk with his people about the pick or the South players he is looking forward to coaching all week. But he knows he'll probably end up drafting somebody out of this game. This is the fourth time he has coached it and he said this week was 90 percent of the reason the Chiefs drafted Dave Szott in the seventh round, switched him from defensive line to offensive line early in his career, and came up with a Pro Bowl guard.