BY GEOFF HOBSON
GEORGETOWN, KY. _ Dick LeBeau knew Dick Jauron would make a heck of a coach during that season they worked together in the Bengals coaching box. So did the club owners, Paul and Mike Brown. But back in the early '80s, Jauron wasn't quite ready to make the leap and went into business.
File it under "What Might Have Been." Katie Blackburn, Paul Brown's granddaughter who once made a sign for a Bengals game that said, "Right On Jauron," is now a club executive who helped negotiate the lease for the new stadium where Jauron returns to Cincinnati Saturday night. Jauron, Chicago's second-year head coach, leads his Bears into the first game ever at Paul Brown Stadium. Jauron, still Yale's all-time leading rusher, is smart enough to know the game links two of the game's grand old men
"It's a real special thing to play in the opener of Paul Brown Stadium, particularly because of who we are and what we represent," Jauron told the Chicago media today. "We're the oldest team in the league and (Bears founder) George Halas and Paul Brown are two huge names in professional sports. To be affiliated with the Bears and to have played for and known Paul Brown, it's really special for me and for us to open the stadium named for that guy."
Jauron, 49, a safety for the Bengals from 1978-80, wasn't only smart. He was also athletic and could run. LeBeau, the current Bengals defensive coordinator, should know. In LeBeau's first season as Cincinnati's secondary coach in 1980, Jauron was a versatile veteran who had gone to the 1974 Pro Bowl as a punt returner for Detroit. When Jauron got hurt, he joined LeBeau upstairs in the press box during games and they've been close friends ever since.
Ironically, LeBeau, a Pro Bowl cornerback during 14 years in Detroit, had just retired and began his coaching career in Philadelphia when the Lions took Jauron in the fourth round of the 1973 NFL Draft.
"We got half of them right," said LeBeau of the two former Lions in the box. "We didn't have as many coaches as we do now and so he would chart. He was excellent with coverages and pass routes. He was good. Sharp kid. He's a good coach because he's smart and he's got instincts."
Jauron drew solid reviews for coaxing the Bears to a 6-10 record last season after they went 4-12 in '98 under Dave Wannstedt. Jauron, who was the Packers secondary coach for nine years, made his mark as the Jaguars defensive coordinator. But he put the Bears on the map last year with a no-name offense that finished third in the NFL in passing behind rookie quarterback Cade McKown.
"He was like a coach on the field," said Bengals President Mike Brown. "A very bright guy who knew the game. We would have liked to have had him as a coach and we talked to him about it, but it didn't work out."
Jauron said he didn't feel like coaching in 1981 at an age (31) he maybe still could have been playing and didn't get into the profession until joining the Bills in 1985.
"I loved Cincinnati," Jauron said. "I loved being there, living there and playing there and the opportunity they gave me."