CINCINNATI -- As the news of longtime owner Pat Bowlen's departure from the Denver Broncos made headlines early Wednesday, I was reminded of a few comments Cincinnati Bengals president Mike Brown made about his own ownership status just Tuesday.
The 78-year-old Brown isn't battling with health issues, but there are signs his time in charge of the Bengals has started nearing its end. Daughter Katie Blackburn has in the past few seasons been more of a behind-the-scenes player for the organization, as has head coach Marvin Lewis.
Blackburn's work with recent contract negotiations make it clear she is pulling some of the team's most important strings. Lewis' work with the organization's scouting department has helped Cincinnati have some of the league's best draft classes in recent seasons.
When the day comes that Brown decides to relinquish control, the Bengals are well-placed for a good transition. That is primarily because the transition has been in motion for many years now. When the Bengals were moving into Paul Brown Stadium (named, naturally after Brown's father, the legendary NFL coach) in 2000, they started making it known the organization would one day be Blackburn's to run. Here is a story from June of that year about how Cincinnati was laying the foundation for that transition, written by former Cincinnati Enquirer Bengals reporter Mark Curnutte.
Back to Tuesday and the 47th installment of the Bengals' preseason media luncheon. Just before the event at the stadium, Brown relayed his thoughts on how the transition has gone of late.
"Oh, you can tell I'm getting old," Brown said. "When you get old, your children get impatient with you. Just the way it works in life. I have been blessed to have been able to work with my two kids and my father. That's something that is unusual in America these days, and I realize that roles change. My role changed with my father, just as Katie's role with me changes.
"One time I went up. Now I'm going down and that's just the way it is."
The Bengals have truly been a family organization for the life of their existence. Paul Brown ran the organization in some capacity every year from the time he founded it in 1968 until his death in 1991. Mike Brown has been in charge the 23 years that have followed, and he has been joined in the front office over the years by his brother, Pete, his son, Paul, and Blackburn and her husband Troy Blackburn.
Asked if he felt the transition with his son and daughter has gone as well as the transition between he and his father, Mike Brown said: "I like to think so."
Among the recent decisions he's most proud of, Mike Brown said he was glad he could give Lewis another year on his contract this offseason.
"Marvin's a solid coach and a good guy," Brown said. "I've gotten to know him through thick and thin. He's brought us to a good level. We're a winning team. And when you have that coach that can do that for you, I think you'd be foolish to be unsatisfied with him."
Before Lewis took over as head coach in 2003, the Bengals had gone through six straight losing seasons, and 12 straight seasons where they won eight games or fewer. As Lewis enters his 12th season, the Bengals are hoping to make their sixth playoff berth since 2005, and are looking to build on the nine-, 10- and 11-win totals they have amassed in the past three seasons.