Fans fret future

As Bengaldom tries to grasp the realities of 0-4 and a quarterback controversy on steroids, the scene shifts Sunday to Indianapolis. But with the futures of the coach and the quarterbacks on the line, it's hard for the populace to think about one game in October.

A sampling of Hobson's Choice:

Why won't the Bengals just throw this year out and draft a good quarterback like Ken Dorsey from Miami or something? **David, Oakland, CA.

DAVID: That's the direction it looks to be headed. With Gus Frerotte working on a one-year deal, chances are he won't be around. You could still see Jon Kitna and Akili Smith here next year when they draft another first-round quarterback. This year's draft has the potential for six-to-eight first-round quarterbacks and you figure the Bengals won't be able to pass on them, particularly if they have one of the top three picks. But how can they take another franchise quarterback and keep the same people around that have yet to get it out of Smith?**

Does anyone know the real reason the bengals drafts are not as successful as everyone elses? The reason is because Mike Brown does not draft for need or the best player available, he drafts to cut veatran contracts. Lets look back at this year Levi Jones or Phillip Buchanon? It ended up with Jones, why, because Webb make 4 million next year and Brown will not pay that. Warrick was to replace Scotts large contract. What do you think? **Daniel, Cincinnati, OH

DANIEL: I don't buy that. Who did Justin Smith's contract replace in 2001? Certainly not Michael Bankston's. They didn't have a pass-rush end. Warrick was drafted because he was the consensus fourth player in the draft (which may tell you more about consensus than Warrick) and to replace Carl Pickens. They continued to pay Scott his money for '00 and '01 and were still willing to pay him $1.5 million (instead of $3 million), but

he wasn't interested. When they signed Webb before the '01 season, it was basically for two years because everyone knew they wouldn't pay him $4 million in '03. But the Bengals had been getting ripped for not puffing up their contracts with back-loaded years, so they did it to get the deal done to replace Rod Jones. When they drafted Akili Smith in 1999, they paid out more money to him than if they had kept Jeff Blake. With the way Webb struggled early this season, it was clear they needed a long-term answer over there in someone like Jones.**

Hey hobs, thanks for the great job on the coverage. I have been a bengal fan since 1987. I don't understand how Mike Brown, constantly keeps a losing team. When the head coach leaves he picks another coach from his coaching staff and keeps the same players. Why not start from scratch with a new coach and let him hire his own staff, sorry Mike but your decision are not working and I'm tired of losing. Also why keep resigning their own players when they continue to loose? Thanks for letting us ramble? **Jim, Terre Haute, IN.

JIM: Thanks for the kind words. For the most part, Mike leaves hiring the staff to his head coach. It's my impression Dick could have pretty much called his shot after the '00 season, but he felt tremendous loyalty to the staff that stuck with him in the middle of the season when he took over for Bruce, so retained everyone. But Mike has already said he's the leader and he has to take the blame when it fails. If the season keeps going like this, you have to figure it forces the biggest offseason changes in team history.**

I've heard so many times and read in the newspapers how our tight ends are so poor in their blocking. Why did we draft them? And also why in the world is St. Louis and Schobel playing on the special receiving team. When we received the kickoff in last Sundays game they were both in their for I suppose for their blocking abilities. If their so bad, what are they doing in their. I don't understand. Please explain? Thank You! **Bob, Cincinnati.

BOB: St. Louis isn't really a tight end. He's a long snapper and he has to help everywhere when people like starting tight end Sean Brewer get hurt. Brewer and Schobel are coming off their first month of NFL games and they didn't expect them to be Pro Bowl blockers yet.

Where the team may have made a mistake is playing rookie left tackle Levi Jones at tight end in their place to beef up the run blocking. But that cuts down on the tight ends' development and doesn't help Jones all that much. Still, they liked what Schobel did blocking against Tampa Bay last week and with Jones now at left tackle, the tight ends will get more chances.**

Dear Mr. Hobson, I may be one of the few fans who agree with the decsion to sign rookie tackle Reggie Coleman instead of the veteran John Jackson. I think this descion was wise because the Bengals were going to need to either draft or sign a free agent tackle next year to back-up Levi Jones. This may, if Coleman works out, be a nice way to save a draft pick or money tied up into a free agent. Do you believe this was the reasoning behind Coleman's signing and do you think he's a solid player? **Drew, Louisville, Ky.

DREW: Don't know much about Coleman, except that he played 22 games at Tennessee, so he can't be a stiff. You're talking to a big John Jackson guy and not just because of his experience at the spot, but also because of what he brings to a locker room.

But the reasoning with Coleman is solid and not altogether based on money. Although any time there is a money issue, the Bengals never get the benefit of a doubt.

But try this. They need a backup left tackle for Jones. Jackson would probably get them through only this year, but it's a year that Jones has to play to get ready. They might as well find a guy they're going to have around next year, or start the process now to find a guy and why not start with someone else's draft pick?

The big problem is if Jones gets hurt. Then Willie Anderson would have to move from right to left tackle and probably Victor Leyva would be the right tackle, and now you're changing two spots instead of one. That's when you might go get a veteran like Jackson.**

I may be rearranging chairs on the deck of the Titanic, but what is up with special teams? Where is our punt coverage? Last week the announcers put both punters on the clock and his hang time was roughly 5 seconds on every punt. Even on a couple of fair catches, players are not in position to punish the punt returner. Also, why isn't Houshmandzadeh returning kickoffs? **Markus, Reno, NV.

MARKUS: Houshmandzadeh hasn't been returning kicks because he's been nicked by some nagging injuries (mainly a groin pull, and because he's been playing a lot at receiver. The special teams have had a tough start and you figure that will be a big part of the offseason evaluation.**

Besides the obvious quarterback problems an additional problem is that the Bengals are paying for three starting quarterbacks. Not good for the payroll. Are they thinking of dropping anyone, and if so will they hire a true third string quarterback for development purposes. Maybe put someone on the practice squad.

Here is an idea with some PR possibilities. Tim Hasselbeck. He was at Boston College. In 2001 he was with the Ravens in camp. The Eagles signed him after the season and he went to NFL Europe. He was back up on the Berlin Thunder team that won the World Bowl. He went to Eagles camp and was one of the last cuts, losing out to AJ Feeley. Andy Reid quotes were very positive about him. He led the team on two late touchdown drives during the season.

The bonus is that his parents are from Cincinnati. Don Hasselbeck played at LaSalle, Colorado, and mostly with New England in the NFL. The additional bonus is that he married Elisabeth Filarski from Survivor Australia. Maybe she could create some fan interest. I am his uncle, so I am biased, but it all makes sense to me.**Scott, Cincinnati.

You could certainly do something with "The Survivor," angle. A lot of people in and outside the club are still scratching their heads over what happened to Scott Covington, a 1999 seventh-round pick. He was the perfect developmental guy, but he got chewed up in the '01 and '02 derbies and never took a snap in the last two preseasons. That could end up being the biggest casualty of those training-camp competitions.**

What are the Bengals thinking, they should stick with Akili Smith and give the kid a chance to develop. Putting him as a third string QB is not going to get that done. Also, putting back last years lowest rated Quarterback in the NFL (Kitna) as the starter of the team is not much of an improvement over Akili. **Mo, Dayton, Ohio.

MO: It is if you are looking to win games. Here is the big NFL dilemma: Development or winning?

If you're a head coach in the last year of your deal, and the young quarterback gives you no scrambling yards and just 117 passing, what are you going to do?**

It comes to the QB mess and WR conflicts, all we read is "they are learning the offense." Whoaaa up! How hard can this offense be? Carolina destroys that crutch. All new coaches and schemes and they are winning. Expansion Texans beat Dallas. New guy Brady all new coaching staff seemed to do Ok in New England last year. New OC in Pitt and they go to 01 AFC Championship game. This year, San Diego is runnin and rippin with a new coaching staff, new offense 2nd year QB.

So if our offense is so difficult to learn, why keep it? Or why bring in people, coaches and players, not mentally equipped to handle this type offense? Pick one: It is a bad offense. We have dumb players. We have Coaches incapable of teaching it. All three. Really, this line about "knows the offense" is more filler than analysis. Maybe someone could tell us 'why' instead of chanting the same litany of weak phrases.

What is being done to correct it? If they have to simplify it, it was wrong to start with. Right? What will they do next? We are out of QBs. **Ray, Cincinnati.

RAY: They are trying to correct it by going with Kitna, the QB who knows the system the best. But your points are extremely valid. Why do guys like Blake and O'Donnell move on to more productive careers after they play here, and why do guys like Kitna and Frerotte watch their career numbers tumble once they arrive? At that point, scheme and players, have to be analyzed.**

  1. Since Akili Smith is frustrated right now and wants a trade, what is the possibility he could be traded to a team with an aging quarterback? My suggestion would be the Raiders. Rich Gannon is in his late 30's, and if Jerry Rice and Tim Brown stay around at least one more year, they could teach Akili a whole lot about being a professional.
  1. How in the world can Mike Brown think the fans of the other teams with losing records are reacting the same as the Bengals fans? No other franchise has gone this long in futility, with the exception of Tampa Bay in the late 70's/early 80's. But that franchise is winning now because they made the neccessary changes in management. The Texans have even scored more than the Bengals, and there an expansion team.
  1. With the ever increasing animosity the fans have against the Bengals organization, would it be at all possible for the city or county to let the Brown family out of their lease, and let them move to another city? **Kent, Cincinnati, OH.

KENT: They wouldn't be able to trade Smith for a good veteran quarterback because the other team most likely couldn't take the salary cap hit. For instance, Gannon just signed a mega extension in Oakland.

If anyone knows the frustration of Bengals' fans, it's Mike Brown, who is feeling the same agony. It's the reason he went out this past offseason and put together his most expensive team ever and his most experienced team since they went to the playoffs.

His family is committed to getting the Bengals back to the Super Bowl. They own the majority of the team and show no desire to walk away from this city or this team. It is their sole business interest and all signs indicate they are in this for the long haul in an effort to get the franchise back where it was in the late '80s.**

dear Geoff, still writing from oversea France, I must say that I couldn't have follow the QB-drama with accuracy without your balanced and yet argued chronicles. It just seems that the team is back to where it finished the 2001 season, improving the O with a QB used to the game plan. And thus everyone finally relies on Kitna.

Time may be still needed but, please, tell me your mind about all these weeks of derby and shuffle : is it all wasted time due to instability and splitted preferences among the players or could the team benefit from that on the mid-term in case there are new injuries? Last, now we are back to Kitna, would you please tell us what do you consider as his very individual qualities (compared to Frerotte's arm and Smith's mobility)? At least, from my point of view, he spoke at the news conference like an inspired leader, someone concerned, wilful and in terms of attitude, reliable in a way the two others didn't express before. Thank you. **Peter, Paris, France.

PETER: Thanks for the long-distance hit. Kitna is more vocal, outgoing and aggressive with his teammates. He tends to throw floaters at times, but he does get rid of the ball, and that was a major reason the Bengals allowed just 28 sacks this season and maybe one of the reasons they've already given up half that this season. He's the kind of fiery guy they need right now.

Even LeBeau has admitted the derby didn't work out the way he wanted. They offense is behind where it was when Kitna threw for 751 yards in the last two games last season. Plenty of second guessing here.**

From my understanding the decision to go with Kitna this late in the fold is ridiculous. I mean, Not that it's too late to salvage the season but Basically what coach Lebeau's decision is saying is that He was hoping Gus could pick up on the system well enough to be the guy but the so called thumb injury combined with the lack of timing with the receivers prompted him to go with Akili to try a different style of play.

They're messing with Akili's head. Did they expect him to save the day with very little preparation. I mean one week with the first team. You can't go from third string to first string in a week and be expected to be in sync with the team. I just don't think they're doing this the right way. And now he's back as the third string quarterback. I just hope John can throw the deep ball, which because of lack of armstrength, I don't think he can make a lot of throws against an nfl defense. But hopefully his knowledge of the system will make up for it. Can you tell me why Akili isn't at least number 2 on the depth chart. Jerald, Portsmouth, Ohio.

JERALD:Smith isn't No. 2 Sunday, but that doesn't mean he won't be down the road. If the spiral continues, he could very well be No. 1 and they find out for sure about him.

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