Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I was as surprised as anyone to see the Cincinnati Bengals re-signed Chris Henry this morning. WTF doesn't even do this justice.
So I thought I'd post our local sports columnists, Paul Daugherty, perspective on this sorry affair.
Chris Henry arrived today, his latest last chance grinning grotesquely, like a smile in a funhouse mirror. The Bengals have him back and they think it’s great. Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us five times. . .
Choose your explanation: The team needed a wideout to stretch the field, after Chad Johnson went down Sunday. Henry is on a short leash, making next to nothing on a one-year deal. Everyone deserves a sixth chance. Mike The Redeemer wanted Henry here, so here he is.
The Bengals re-acquired a capable wide receiver. All it cost them was their soul.
The head coach got trumped by an owner with a forgiving heart and a poor track record for assembling football teams. Marvin Lewis might coach the Bengals. He doesn’t run them.
“Not interested,’’ Lewis said a week ago, after Henry’s agent said he’d had talks with the team regarding his client. Lewis’ terse response came without qualifier. He didn’t say “Not interested, unless Chad messes up his shoulder.’’ He didn’t say, “Not interested, unless the owner says we are and cuts my legs off to bring back a guy as reliable as a 1979 Chevette.’’ Nope. Marvin was not interested.
Only now, he is. He’ll have to coach a guy he openly and forcefully didn’t want. He has to deal with a locker room that knows who’s boss, and it ain’t Coach. You could argue this sort of tug happens all over the league, and you’d be right. But it doesn’t generally occur with a player who has been suspended for 15 games of his 35-game NFL career, not including the first four this year.
The internal talks about Henry were taking place before Johnson sprained his shoulder, so Lewis knew how Brown felt about things. Maybe the coach tried a power play and lost. Regardless, Lewis has to coach a player he has no use for and manage a locker room wondering who the sheriff is.
This isn’t about Chris Henry, per se. Maybe he’s a new man. Maybe he’s running for tenor in the Vienna Boys Choir. Good for him. Everyone has a right to make a living.
This is about how forlorn a franchise the Bengals continue to be. It’s about an owner who hasn’t presided over a playoff victory in 17 years. Mike Brown has put on the line whatever dignity and credibility his franchise has, for a good-not-great player who has been suspended almost as often as not.
Didn’t the Bengals draft wideouts in the second and third rounds? Didn’t they take three in eight rounds? Oops.
Their credibility on the “character’’ issue? Zero.
Their stated desire to have “good people’’ on their roster? Fraudulent.
Their record this year with Henry, as opposed to without him? Remains to be seen. Educated guess: He won’t be the difference in more than a game. The Bengals have issues at center, issues with the pass rush, concerns with the cover abilities of their corners, wonders about the health of Rudi Johnson.
Solution: Bring back Chris Henry.
Mike Brown has a genuine interest in Henry’s well-being. The owner has a jelly spot within him for the miscreants he has hired, all the way back to Stanley Wilson. It’s not wrong or naïve to appreciate Brown’s Father Flanagan side. He is a decent man.
Not that it helps him succeed in business. If you’re going to run your team like a halfway house, if you elect to practice social work without a license, you might want to win more than you lose, occasionally.
Even if you’re a bottom-line Bengals fan whose outrage is limited to losses to the Cleveland Browns, you will acknowledge that adding Chris Henry for 12 games doesn’t mean the playoffs are up next. Successful teams have players they can rely on, players who can rely on each other. Then there are the Bengals, whose owner enables irresponsibility in the name of stretching the field.
“His conduct can no longer be tolerated’’ was Brown’s response in April, after Henry was arrested a fifth time. Charges eventually were dropped, apparently causing the owner’s heart to flutter. What is different about the player now is anybody’s guess.
We’re about to find out. Not that it matters. It’d be nice if the Bengals stood for something, other than losing.
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