Palmer urges patience

8-13-01, 3:30 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ Chris Palmer, who nearly became the Bengals' offensive coordinator this offseason, still remains one of Akili Smith's biggest backers. And of any young NFL quarterback with talent.

Palmer, the offensive coordinator for the expansion Texans, watched the Bengals practice Monday here at Georgetown College with Houston head coach Dom Capers and the NFL quarterback guru preached patience.

"It took Phil Simms five years. Go back and look at his career," Palmer said. "Look at Brett Favre. It takes time.

"With the NCAA rules, quarterbacks and other players are getting 20 hours a week," Palmer said. "Before that they were getting many more snaps and much more time on the field with coaches. They come out not as refined as they once were. They need time to learn the game."

Palmer, who has coached Warren Moon, Drew Bledsoe, Mark Brunell and Tim Couch, isn't sure who will be his next quarterback.

But, now, now and tsk, tsk. It's way too early to think about the possibility of the Bengals leaving Smith unprotected in next winter's expansion draft and Palmer doing what he didn't do in 1999 as head coach of expansion Cleveland and drafting him.

The Texans would have to absorb his salary cap count. Plus, Smith could very well be the Bengals starting quarterback, if not Sept. 9, then later in the season. And Bengals President Mike Brown has indicated he has hopes for Smith beyond this season.

"The young man has a lot of talent," said Palmer, who nearly took Smith No. 1 over Couch.

Palmer isn't sure which way the Texans will go. They could do what he did in

Cleveland and build with a rookie franchise quarterback. It seemed to be a plan with promise until Couch got hurt last year before the mid-way point of his second season.

Or they could do what Jacksonville did and go with a young veteran-type Brunell guy in a trade.

"It's hard to say," Palmer said. "We'll have the first pick in the draft, but we're not sure yet who is going to be there as the best player.

"You look at a guy like Peyton Manning," Palmer said, "and he went from 3-13 his first year to 13-3. He had people around him. That's the thing you have to try and do. Find an individual who gives you the best chance with the people he has."

Palmer, 51, interviewed with Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau for the job of offensive coordinator back in January. That was shortly after the Browns fired him following a two-year run at 5-27 as the head coach.

After meeting LeBeau, he flew to Houston to see Capers and then thought about his options before settling on a reported four-year deal with the Texans. But he said Monday he was torn between the two teams and his wife had been pulling for Cincinnati because of LeBeau.

"After what happened in Cleveland, I was interested in being able to see something through from the beginning," Palmer said. "But I was very interested in this job and it was a tough decision."

Palmer crossed paths with the man who did get the job, Bob Bratkowski, a dozen years ago. When Bratkowski was the offensive coordinator at Washington State and Palmer was the head coach at Boston University, Palmer invited him east for an Xs and Os session.

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