BY GEOFF HOBSON
TAMPA, Fla. _ Akili Smith and Corey Dillon are looking for encouraging signs from the Bengals.
Smith, the struggling franchise quarterback, seeks an offensive scheme that emphasizes his mobility. Dillon, the Pro Bowl running back, wants to see a tangible commitment to winning before he signs on the dotted line in free agency.
Wednesday's hiring of Bob Bratkowski as the non-household name offensive coordinator probably won't do much for both immediately.
But future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Warren Moon, who shares agents with Smith and Dillon, offered a solid endorsement of Bratkowski here Thursday after his retirement news conference at the Super Bowl.
Agent Leigh Steinberg said Smith needs the "one-on-one quarterback coaching," such as what Troy Aikman received from Norv Turner in Dallas and Steve Young from Mike Shanahan in San Francisco.
Moon, who had his last Pro Bowl season in Seattle when Bratkowski was the Seahawks' offensive coordinator, thinks Bratkowski is a good fit for Smith.
"I like Bob. I like his passing game mind," Moon said. "The thing I liked most about him is he let me be involved in the game plan a lot. He took ideas from me, what I thought was successful and the things I did best and that's what he let the quarterback do.
"A lot of people don't do that," Moon said. "A lot of people try to shove a system down your throat even though it's not best suited for your talents. But Bob kind of let me do the things that I did best and I think that's one of the reasons I had a successful (season). Hopefully he'll do that for the young kid."
Moon threw 25 touchdown passes for Bratkowski in 1997 and think of this. The Bengals have 24 touchdown passes the past two seasons.
Moon thinks Bratkowski's placid personality will be a lift for Smith.
"He's got a very calm demeanor," Moon said. "He's not one of these yellers. He's not a high-pressure guy. I think Akili will be comfortable around him. I think as a quarterback, that's what you want around you is a guy that has a relaxed type of demeanor that isn't going to get you too riled up or excited because at that position, especially a young player, you want to stay as calm as you possibly can. There's enough chaos going around you as it is."
Smith and Dillon couldn't be reached for comment. Steinberg said, "Anything that will make the Bengals better will encourage Corey."
Five years from today, Moon, 44, will be preparing for a first ballot election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He certainly left his mark on the Bengals.
In 17 NFL seasons, Moon threw 37 touchdown passes against Cincinnati, his most against any foe. He threw 25 each against two other AFC Central Division rivals in the Steelers and Browns.