12-3-02, 4 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna sounds like the fan on the street. A 6-10 finish last year meant the status quo in the offseason and maybe everyone felt too good after winning the last two games.
Now, it's so bad, there is nowhere to hide.
"At 1-11, maybe the thing for us is to take a long, hard look at who we've got around here. It's about getting the right type of attitude," Kitna said Monday. "In the locker room, upstairs, the whole thing. If there are doubts you can't win games, if there are doubts you're in games you're not going to win, that stuff will kill you.
"I think we need an attitude change around here," he said. "We've dominated seven of the last eight games and we're 1-11. That means it's just something upstairs that can't get past in the guys' minds. That has to change. It's not my job to say how to change it."
That job falls to Bengals President Mike Brown, a man who acknowledges he doesn't like change and with four games left he isn't saying anything that sounds like a drastic overhaul is headed this way. Of course, he isn't saying anything about possible off-season changes, although he said, "we're going to look at how we do everything 10 ways to Sunday and we've already started."
He also said Monday that he thinks the players and schemes already in place aren't problems.
"It will turn around," Brown said. "It won't turn around much this year because there's not much time left to make a difference."
Asked if it can turn around with these players and coaches, Brown said,
"It's just a matter of not making the little mistakes that make us lose and making one or two plays to win. This is a closely run thing. Our players aren't inadequate, nor is it a result of what we do. The schemes we use are pretty similar to what is used against us."
Kitna, like a lot of people, see the close losses as a sign of problems because in four of the last six games that includes Sunday's loss to Baltimore, the Bengals have outgained the foe and have won just once. Although Brown is upset with the losses, he takes some heart in them.
But as Kitna called them Monday, they are still, "Ls." Kitna didn't have a good feeling when he made a rare talk in front of the team at halftime during the 29-21 loss in Pittsburgh last week.
"We're going to win because we're better," said Kitna of his message. "I'm not sure we all believe that."
Brown, who last week reiterated how much he hates firing people in the name of what he calls "scapegoating," is uncomfortable when he hears talk about curses and karma.
"We don't drop punts because of psychoanalytical reasons," Brown said. "We don't run the wrong routes because of psychoanalytical reasons. People want to do something to make it better. From people on the outside, they want to cut everyone's head off. That will make them feel better."
Kitna isn't talking about canning people, but he is talking about bringing in guys and keeping guys, "who want to be here." He is still aghast that they courted quarterback Elvis Grbac this past offseason a year after he rejected them.
"Why would you go to somebody who already turned you down?" Kitna asked. "Why would you want somebody that didn't want to be here? You've got to want people that want to be here."
On Monday, Kitna, an avid golfer, talked about how he always unleashes a bad shot if he's standing over the ball with bad thoughts in his mind.
"The mentality around here has to change," he said.
While people in and outside the organization are clamoring for changes in some form or another, Brown is staying mum and looking at the nuts and bolts.
"The answer is we don't do the little things we need to do on a consistent basis," Brown said. "It isn't that we aren't playing well enough to win. Since Kitna has been the quarterback, we've been in every game but one. Yet we find these ways to turn the ball over. If you're looking for a one-word answer for this season, it's turnovers. A negative 13 ratio is at the bottom of the conference."
But Brown knows 1-11 can't be rationalized.
"You have to win," he said.
Yet he won't talk about next year until, well, next year.
"There are still four games to win," Brown said.