Fans want change

12-8-02, 1:15 p.m.

Bengaldom isn't pleased with the prospect of no major changes during the offseason. Although there have been no indications that any decisions have been made, the countryside doesn't like the buzz. Here is this week's sampling of Hobson's Choice.

I have to challenge your usage of the word "stars" in speaking of some productive Bengal draft picks. Corey Dillon has made the Pro Bowl. No one else on this team has. Making the Pro Bowl is not making "All-Pro" something that hasn't been accomplished around here ever under Mike Brown. When you consider where this team drafts year in and year out, that is an out and out disaster. **Rick, Cincinnati, OH.

RICK: "Star," is a pretty subjective term and you can argue it from here until forever. You can be a star and still not make the Pro Bowl. The balloting overlooks a lot of players, given that players, coaches, and fans tend to vote for past individual performances and current team records.

You'd have to classify right tackle Willie Anderson as a star. He's been the best run blocker in Dillon's run of six straight 1,000-yard seasons. Linebackers Brian Simmons and Takeo Spikes have produced

enough during their careers that they would merit Pro Bowl consideration on other teams, which makes them at least stars.

OK, maybe Justin Smith and Levi Jones are "emerging," stars. But Smith had a "starry," rookie season with 8.5 sacks and Jones is having a solid enough rookie season in which he played last year's AFC sack leader Peter Boulware twice and held off Boulware long enough that he didn't touch Jon Kitna in two games.

As for the drafts, one e-mail accused us of spewing Mike Brown propaganda in last week's story about possible changes in the Bengals' smallest NFL personnel department. The reader took exception to the stat from the "Ourlads" survey about the Bengals having the most "hits," by non-expansion teams in the drafts from 1995 to 2001. He argues that the Bengals have been so bad that they have to keep their own players because free agents won't come here.

Solid point. But according to the survey, the picks the Bengals have jettisoned aren't falling out of the league. The percentage of those still in the NFL are comparable to other teams. According to a "Sporting News," survey before this season, 26 percent of the Bengals' picks were starters, 44 percent were backups, five percent were on other teams, and 26 percent were out of the NFL. The average in the NFL over the last five years has 24 percent starting, 32 percent backing up, 16 percent with other teams, and 28 percent out of the league.

Which isn't meant to show anything but _ at least from those drafts - that they were in line with the rest of the league. No one was saying they were the greatest drafts since Jimmy Johnson sat down in the late' 80s.

The spectacular top three busts of Dan Wilkinson, Ki-Jana Carter, and, for the moment, Akili Smith, have overshadowed some of their better moves, and the fact they have not drafted all that well in rounds four through seven.**

If Mike Brown thinks that he is going to skate by without making MAJOR CHANGES, he is dead wrong. What he fails to realize is that many diehard season ticket holders have had enough and are going to bail this year. In my case, the cost of the COA for my two tickets is $2400. I doubt very seriously that some new fan is going to pay $3400 ($2400 COA plus $50 per ticket per game) to see a team that essentially stands pat after a dozen years of losing. Even if an existing season ticket holder upgrades to my seats, he's got to pay the difference in the COA. Fat chance of that happening! Is Mr. Brown really that out of it that he thinks he's going to keep his fan-base with more of the same? By the way, where do I go to sell my COA? I was told in 1996 that there would be a market for it if I ever wanted to sell! **Rich, Milford, OH.

RICH: You have adroitly summed up the dilemma in which the organization finds itself heading into this offseason. Continuity is nice and desired from a football standpoint. But that is not what the customer wants to hear after 12 straight losing seasons.**

Mr. Hobson ... Trivia Question: What do Mark Duper, Barry Foster, Elvis Grbac, and Michael Westbrook have in common? Although slightly different circumstances, it seems like a common thread to me ....**Michael, Cincinnati, OH.

MICHAEL: There is that line from Mike Brown when Barry Foster left after 36 hours in 1995: "He came, he saw, he left."**

Where would the Bengals be if they had (1) Never traded Boomer to start with? (2) Drafted Troy Vincent instead of Klingler? (3) Drafted Champ Bailey instead of Akili? (4) Signed Ted Washington and Sam Adams when they had the chance? (5) Started Kitna from the get go this year? **Dan, McDermott, Ohio.

DAN: They wouldn't be riding a 12-year losing streak. Washington not coming didn't turn out to be a grand disaster because they got a very good young lineman in Tony Williams instead. Adams would have been nice, but then, they also didn't see Oliver Gibson getting hurt.

But guys like Boomer, Vincent, and Bailey are/were difference makers in key positions. What would have happened if Sam Wyche didn't leave? Boomer wouldn't have demanded a trade and . . . **

Hey Hobson, I'm a struggling Bengals fan going to school in the Cleveland area. I listen to the webcast games every sunday and cannot stand how frustrating it is to hear the games go the other way in fourth quarters. Baltimore was the worst. The Bengals played Stellar and then the Ravens scored all three TDs on stupid mistakes. Do you see good things for next season? That's my final hope as a hardcore Bengals fan. With a team full of ridiculous amounts of NFL dynasty type talent, what is slipping here? We should be 7-5. Thanks. Mike, Cincinnati.

MIKE: It depends what happens in the offseason. Clearly, there have to be changes and there probably will be enough changes that it's going to require time for adjustment. Next year is hard to gauge when you're just trying to get through this one.

Geoff - First of all, there are some people still reading your column and we appreciate it. We are the die hard fans, maybe even immortal, since they have been trying to kill us for 12 years now.

I would like to offer an opinion on Akili Smith. It is obvious he doesn't want to be a Bengal. Anyone who reads this site knows this to be true. Why not just trade him, or cut him - either way - get him out of here. Akili thinks he isn't being treated fairly, and I think his comments for the last two years have not been fair to the Bengals. Starting him against Tampa was not fair to him or us, and keeping him around here isn't either. He wants to see major changes in hopes that a new coach will start him. Bad pick, let him go. Also talk to Dorsch, if he wants to go, trade him too, only people who want to be here, will get this team turned around.

One other thing, as long as people come to BOO the Bengals, fly negative banners over our stadium, and start ignorant petitions trying to force changes in a business they know nothing about, we will be at a disadvantage at home, and on the road. **Doug, Louisville, KY

DOUG: Thanks for the kind words. The negative stuff is understandable and it's a fact of life in pro sports nowadays. You're going to get flayed as long as the losses pile up with the same game plan. It truly is a bottom line business. Mike Brown has said this all along. It's up to the team to win and win back the disgruntled.

Akili Smith wants to be here if he gets a fair shot. Next year is it. It's easier on the salary cap to cut him then, and there should be a better idea of who the coaches are going to be and what they want.**

Hi Hobs, What I would like to know is that with one of the most dominant running backs in the game and defences always preparing their game plan around CD, Why are the Bengals not using more play action early in the game, and throughout the game? I would agree that Jon doesn't sell it as much as Boomer did, for Boommer sold it on every play whether it was run or pass, however with more of it used now, would it not help make defenses more honest and start to releive CD of seeing those 8 man boxes every play? Thanks Canadian Bengal Fan! **Jeff, Welland, AK.

JEFF: One of the big problems is the score of the games and down and distance. Much of the time the Bengals are behind and are expected to throw. They have scored on some long passes working out of play-action on first down, but they have rarely been in second-and-three, which is where their foes have spent the season. The quarterback's fake helps, but the offensive line's movements are just as important on the play-action and it's tough when you're expected to throw.**

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