National Columnist

With T.O. aboard, are you still a Bengals fan? May I ask why?

Hate Mail: We're in crisis mode

Maybe Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco will get along, maybe they won't. Maybe like the kindred spirits they say they are, they'll lead the Cincinnati Bengals to the Super Bowl -- or maybe, like the self-centered scorpions they really are, they'll stab each other in the back and leave behind a 6-10 husk of a 2010 season.

Maybe none of that is the point.

The point is, how can a fan of the Bengals be a fan of the Bengals? How do you still do it? How?

Go down the list of the biggest idiots in the NFL, criminal and non-criminal division. In recent years, that list would have to include Pacman Jones (now a Bengal), Tank Johnson (Bengal), Cedric Benson (Bengal) and Matt Jones (Bengal). That's the criminal division. The idiot list would also include Terrell Owens (now a Bengal), Chad Ochocinco (Bengal) and Antonio Bryant (Bengal). That's the non-criminal division. Biggest character risk in the 2010 NFL Draft? Probably Carlos Dunlap, the Florida defensive end who was arrested on DUI charges five days before the SEC title game. Who drafted him in April? You know who drafted him. The Bengals drafted him.

This, Cincinnati, is your team. These, Bengals fans, are your players.

What jersey do you wear to Paul Brown Stadium on Sundays? What player on this roster, by virtue of having his name and number on your back, will you say, This is me?


Quarterback Carson Palmer, sure. Swell guy. Linebacker Dhani Jones, absolutely. Good man. There are more, of course. The Bengals probably have more good guys than bad.

Probably. But only because they didn't re-sign misogynistic running back Larry Johnson, whom they picked up last season, and only because they recently released offensive lineman Jason Shirley, who was kicked off the team at Fresno State for DUI issues in November 2007, then drafted by the Bengals five months later.

The problem is the clown running this organization, Mike Brown, son of the legendary coach, owner and namesake of the Cleveland Browns. Mike Brown couldn't wear his father's jockstrap, so after years of turning the Bengals into the worst franchise in the NFL he has remade himself in the image of Al Davis. Just win, scummy.

Brown fancies himself a redeemer. He literally calls himself that, when the reality isn't nearly so rosy: He's not a redeemer; he's a tightwad. He can't, or won't, get top-dollar free agents -- so what he does is wait for them to hit the skids. He signs Terrell Owens when nobody else will. He adds Pacman Jones between arrests. He drafts first-round talent Carlos Dunlap on the cheap in Round 2.

Brown has been stingy for so long, he probably believes his own shtick -- that he's not an opportunist, but a "redeemer." So, fine. Let's go there, because second chances are fine and dandy. Me, I've come around on Michael Vick. Roger Goodell decided Vick deserved a second chance in the NFL, and that was enough for me. I wrote that last year, so don't tell me I'm incapable of forgiveness. I despised Michael Vick, but I forgave. Forgiveness is good.

But this much forgiveness? Mike Brown has turned so many cheeks, he's used up his face and moved on to his ass. Enjoy the view, Bengals fans. This is your team. It has been put together by an owner who honestly thinks he's smarter than everyone else despite ample evidence to the contrary. This is what he told the Cincinnati Enquirer about Terrell Owens:

More on Owens

"I met with him personally and privately he is not at all this public image is depicted," Brown said. "He's a pleasant person, a quiet person. I found him engaging and I do trust my eyes on this sort of thing."

Got that? Everything that happened in San Francisco and Philadelphia and Dallas, well, it didn't happen. Not the way we all thought it did. Terrell Owens isn't selfish or narcissistic or cancerous in a locker room. He's actually "a pleasant person." Mike Brown met him -- and Mike Brown does trust his eyes on this sort of thing.

Brown also trusted his eyes on Rey Maualuga, the Southern California linebacker who thought it would be a hoot to sneak up on a female reporter and pretend to have sex with her from behind. Childish prank, that. No big deal, Brown decided, when he drafted Maualuga 38th overall in 2009. How did Maualuga repay Brown? By starting 15 games as a rookie in 2009. And then getting arrested on DUI charges in January after driving into a parking meter and two parked cars near Cincinnati.

Brown also trusted his eyes on Cedric Benson, the running back who was released by the Bears after two alcohol-related arrests in 2008. Brown gave Benson a second chance, and Benson repaid Brown by running for 1,998 yards in 2008 and '09. And then getting arrested on assault charges stemming from a May incident when he was accused of punching a bar employee in Texas.

None of this is to say that Benson and Maualuga are horrible people, undeserving of their spots in the NFL. They've made mistakes, but not mistakes that cannot be forgiven. Same goes for Matt Jones, arrested with cocaine in his car. And Tank Johnson, arrested twice for firearm offenses. And Pacman Jones, I guess, despite his rap sheet. And Dunlap. And Frostee Rucker and Bernard Scott and Johnathan Joseph and, well, enough about those guys. Anyway, forgiveness also goes for the idiot brigade at wideout, guys who are fun to be around when the going is good, but heaven help everyone around them when the going gets rough -- Owens and Ochocinco and Antonio Bryant.

All of them are screwups in their own way, but all of them deserve a second chance. Or a third or fourth chance, in some cases.

But why are all of them getting that chance in Cincinnati?

And how can a Bengals fan be OK with it?

And whose jersey are you going to wear this season? Which of these idiots represents you?

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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