BY GEOFF HOBSON
When Dick LeBeau suddenly became the Bengals head coach Monday, he pledged to establish a philosophy.
On Sunday against the Dolphins, he tells the world what it is with each call in what looks to be a matchup from Hades for the bedeviled Bengals. Both teams have been doing things not done in the NFL since the days of FDR.
Miami has allowed just one touchdown in the first four games of the season, which hasn't been done since 1937. The Bengals have scored seven points in the first three games, a feat not accomplished since the 1945 Chicago Cardinals.
So maybe it's fitting the Bengals go into the game with the NFL's oldest rookie head coach, born in the first month of that 1937 season, during FDR's second term.
"We want our players to have a chance to win in the fourth quarter. In every game we play," LeBeau said. "We've all been told we'll monitor what's happening on the field and we're not going to hesitate to try somebody else. We're all on notice, man."
It's the first time ever a defensive man has led the Bengals on the field, so for any clues it's safe to look at the coaches he's been around. Brown. Shula. Hayes. Lombardi.
They were all fighters," LeBeau said. "This is a contact game."
That's a pretty good ball-control clue. But maybe a more contemporary look would give you a better idea and you don't have to look very far. Just at the other sidelines.
Miami offensive coordinator Chan Gailey was in Pittsburgh with LeBeau when the Steelers dominated the AFC with defense, the running game and a ball-control philosophy that shortened games and lowered scores.
Offensive coordinator Ken Anderson is now calling plays for an offense that got four yards rushing last week. But LeBeau and Anderson played in an era when you ran first and passed later, and they have spent the week trying to build up the confidence of their shattered offensive line with back-to-basics.
"Kenny told us if we don't get four yards on the first play, we'll get it on the next play," said right guard Mike Goff. "When you hear that from your coach, that shows confidence in us as a line. In a nutshell, it's just move the ball.
"The days are over for us having four yards rushing. Those days have to stop. That's what this game plan is designed to do. Go out there and get some yards. Keep plugging away. (LeBeau) has embedded in us that's going to be our agenda. We're not going to roll over and play dead. We're going to go out and fight every play."
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The buzz word this week has been "agenda." Forget the woes of the offense for a moment. The defense has allowed 27 points in the first quarter this season. The word this week is to give the team a chance to win late in the game. Take it down by down. Don't shoot yourself in the foot.
"We're going to play with an agenda," said Bengals nose tackle Oliver Gibson, who played for LeBeau in Pittsburgh. "We can't worry about the Dolphins if our agenda is to control the ball, control the momentum, control the tempo.
"You know that look he talked about?" Gibson asked. "I don't know about that. We have an agenda. We're going to run to the line of scrimmage, run our play and if it doesn't work we're still going to run our play. That's something we haven't had. We haven't had any of that consistency and that's what we're aiming for."
The conservative approach would also protect quarterback Akili Smith, who has dropped back to pass a total of 99 times even though he just took six snaps in the third game. He was getting pounded even before he took the game-ending concussion shot from Ravens end Rob Burnett last week in Baltimore.
"It would behoove us I would think to protect him," LeBeau said. "I don't think we need to get his head hit any more. That's a goal of ours."
For the first time in about 700 NFL games as a player and coach, LeBeau gets to call timeouts, decide if he wants to go for two, or go for it on fourth-and-1. "
"We've got a lot of quality coaches around here," LeBeau said. "I've seen a few games. We're going to put our guys in the best position to win. You've got a rookie head coach. That's what you've got.
"Coach (Mark) Duffner has (11) years as a (college) head coach," said LeBeau of his linebackers coach. "He's seen a few games. Kenny Anderson was the Most Valuable Player in the league as a quarterback. We have quality people around here."
If honesty counted the same as a field goal, LeBeau would have a 3-0 lead. Here's a man who played in 185 NFL games, has coached in about 450 more, played in three Pro Bowls and coached in three Super Bowls.
"I get very nervous at game time," LeBeau said. "And I expect to be even more nervous.
"Am I going to be 100 percent?" LeBeau asked. "I d like to say that I'm going to be, but we're going to fight through whatever happens. I don't expect to mess it up."
Sounds like an agenda.