QBs still the topic

9-22-02, 8 10 p.m.

With their team taking the field Sunday night for its first nationally-televised game in four years, all is not well in Bengaldom. The populace is up in (left) arms over the quarterback situation, concerned about what Falcons quarterback Michael Vick will do to them, and pointing fingers at the coaches.

A sampling of Hobson's Choice:

don't you think it's time for a complete coaching change? **Larry, Vandalia, OH.

LARRY: It's way too early to change the head coach and you couldn't blow up the entire staff in the middle of the season. That said, there's a sense this staff is under more scrutiny than those that have come before given that management put the team in the best shape it has been in years.

No significant players missed a down of training camp, every defensive starter returned, and the offensive system is in its second season. Meanwhile, teams throughout the league this Sunday came back from two- and three-touchdown deficits to win, like the Browns and Saints, and you figure the Bengals have comparable talent. If the losing continues, everything has to be evaluated, including the coaches.**

The Bengals have shown no signs of making a playoff run once again this season. Of course we are only two games into a long 16 game schedule, but the Ravens have looked impossibly worse than us (especially their offense with only 7 points to show for). Cleveland is the only team with a win in our pathetic conference.

This season is not over for the Bengals and I'm a firm believer that if this offense gets its act together, they could still win the division. Cleveland is beatable if the Bengals don't play like that and they get on the same page as the quarterback. They shot themselves in the foot, and if that stops, they could wind up stealing the division.

Pittsburgh and the Rams (heavy Superbowl favorites) are sitting in the same seat as us. They do have more upside (obviously, especially the Rams) but come on here. It sounds like everyone is throwing in the towel. Doesn't everyone recall last season?

You are obviously more close to the team than me. I'm at every game on Sunday and have been since I was 5 years old (21 years old now). I've seen some bad, bad teams. This team is better than those by a landslide. They can pull this thing together. So my question is: Is the team really sticking together (like you report on the website) or is there finger pointing going on? Does it seem as though the team has been deflated after a positive outlook from camp and after the preseason?

Does it seem like they already feel their season is defeated? Thanks for you time, and I look forward to hearing what you have to say. **Brad, Lexington, Ky.

BRAD: Thanks for the note. This is the most veteran team they've had since free agency started eight years ago, so it appears to be more solid mentally than those teams in the

late '90s and 2000 that couldn't cope at all with slow starts and couldn't recover from their devastation. It's early on, so they still are upbeat and appear to be hanging together. Frerotte calling a team meeting earlier this week is a good example.

But they also seem to be fighting the negativity that has enveloped the franchise for the past dozen years. Veterans who have been at other places, such as Frerotte, are stunned by how negative it gets in Cincinnati so fast. Of course, with good reason, but that doesn't take away from the fact that the atmosphere can feed a collapse no matter how veteran the team.**

The Bengals needlessly wasted a time-out in the first half against Cleveland. They challenged a call on the field that ruled that CB Jeff Burris trapped the ball for an interception. It was pretty clear on the T.V. replays that he did in fact trap the ball. How come Burris didn't go to the sidelines and relay that fact to coach LeBeau? Burris had to have known that the call on the field was correct because he was there. Will the Bengals have this problem fixed by the next game versus Atlanta? **Shaun, Cincinnati.

SHAUN: On a play like that, the player might not even know if it hit the ground or not and as a player, you hope it's close enough that it gets overturned. Usually LeBeau gets some help from his coaches up in the box. You can't "fix," anything like that because it depends on the play. You have to feel they will be a bit more judicious against the Falcons with the timeout.**

I have one question for you.shoudnt akili smith get the start for sundaynight, I know he's 3rd on the charts but he did very well against the jets last season before he got hurt and i think the bengals would have won that game if he didnt get hurt, so shouldnt he get another chance in the system who knows he might be the surprize this season but they got to give him this chance! **Johnny, Cape Coral, FL.

JOHNNY: Jay in Milwaukee, Jason in Albany and countless others say the same thing. Again, too early to jettison a veteran quarterback. Frerotte has had tremendous stretches during his career and you have to concede because of his limited snaps in training camp that his timing is where it should have been three to four weeks ago if there hadn't been a quarterback derby.

The big question isn't when to bench Frerotte, but who do they go to if they bench him. Do they find out about Akili and tap his athletic ability? Or do they go to Kitna because of his knowledge of the system?

But Smith showed he has improved picking up the scheme and it just may be time in league of Vicks and McNabbs to try and unleash his athleticism again soon now that he's been in the league longer.**

simple question here. if we can't stop the last 2 quarterbacks how in the world are we gonna stop mr. vick? how soon before we see akili? **James, Fairfield, Ohio.

JAMES: If Mr. Vick isn't scary enough, try Mr. T.J. Duckett, the 254-pound rookie running back they didn't handle in the preseason finale. It still sounds like if LeBeau benches Frerotte, he'll go to Kitna. But the other interesting question is what does he do the week after he makes that move?**

Frerotte looked awful Sunday. He would only look at one side of the field, even when he had time. So what's the deal with Kenny Anderson keeping his job? We get high-round rookie QBs, and they never develop, and we get free agents that have had some past success, and they get worse. We've had different head coaches and offensive coordinators and, thus, different schemes. The only constant has been the QB coach. How can Anderson possibly keep his job after that kind of record? ** Travis, Newport, Ky.

TRAVIS:** Maybe the constant shuffling has hurt Anderson's ability to do his job. Mike Holmgren worked pretty well with Brett Favre for seven years, but he hasn't looked very smart lately.

Still, it's hard to defend anything about this offense. Kitna, Frerotte and Neil O'Donnell had better numbers before they came here. O'Donnell and Jeff Blake had better numbers when they left. David Klingler and Akili Smith were coming off record-breaking careers in college. But you can't put the entire blame on one guy who is working as hard as anyone else.**

Who will the starting qb be in Atlanta. I understand the coaching staff is trying to gain some consistency in keeping with Gus but he was nothing short of bumbling in Clevlands loss. I am from DC, I was at the game where he ran his head into the wall in the corner of the endzone where I sat; that left handed debacle ranks right up there with the afore mentioned incident. It is only week two and that will be one of the biggest bloopers of the 17 week schedule. I want Akili in there. **Vince, Vienna, VA.

VINCE: The one disturbing thing about that play is Frerotte has a history of not throwing more interceptions than touchdowns and that's basically why they shelved Kitna.**

ATLANTA'S STRENGTH IS THE SHORT YARD PASSING GAME (SCREENS, FLATS, 10 YARD DRAG AND X-ROUTES). UNFORTUNATLEY, THIS IS A MAJOR WEAKNESS IN OUR DEFENSE. OUR DB'S CONTINUE TO PROVIDE 12 YARD CUSHIONS TO WR'S. IT ALSO SEEMS WE LET TE'S AND FULLBACKS RUN FREELY. ANY CHANCE WE COULD SEE OUR DB'S COME UP AND LOCK ON WR'S WITH MORE TIGHT MAN COVERAGE AND WE PULL SAFETIES UP SOME? OR SHOULD WE EXPECT TO SEE A DEFENSIVE SCHEME CONTENT WITH GIVING UP THE 8 -10 YD PASS? I THINK THE BENGALS CAN HANDLE ATLANTA'S VERTICAL GAME, BUT WE NEED TO STOP A POTNENT SHORT YARD PASSING GAME AND A SCRAMBLING QB. **Steve, Louisville, KY.

STEVE: You're right. They can't let Vick run around and get outside their ends. The key is stopping Duckett and the other running back, Warrick Dunn, on first down. They need to get Vick in third-and-long, and the linebackers have to have a big game as much as the cornerbacks because Crumpler is a solid tight end for them and Dunn is dangerous in the passing game.**

I wish I understood the logic in faking a field goal just to punt the ball. If the Bengals are that concerned about their ability to cover a punt why not just kick it out of bounds? I was especially disappointed in our returners being gun shy about fielding punts in the 2nd half, it confirmed the fact that the team was beat once again in just about every way. I sure do dread the embarrassment on national TV next week. **Mark, Knoxville, TN

MARK: At some point, they have to take three points when they can get it and worry about field position later. If it happens Sunday night in the Georgia Dome, where the wind is zero, think of the e-mails then.**

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