The owner of an NFL franchise is one of the most coveted positions in all of sports. Each owner constructs his staff to be one of the final two standing on Super Bowl Sunday. Finally, the Cincinnati Bengals’ owner figured it out.
Who is the Cincinnati Bengals owner?
Mike Brown is the current owner of the Cincinnati Bengals. He’s been in charge of the team since 1991 and has spent the majority of his tenure dealing with underwhelming on-field performance. Let’s learn how Brown came to own the Bengals and a little about the team’s history.
Brown has been around a long time. At 86 years of age, Brown is the second-oldest owner in the NFL. His father, Paul Brown, was the first head coach of the Cleveland Browns. After getting fired in 1963, Paul wanted to return to coaching but didn’t want to have to answer to an owner. So, he decided to start his own team and founded the Cincinnati Bengals in 1968.
Mike started out as the assistant general manager. He remained in that role for 22 years. Upon his father’s death in 1991, Brown became the sole owner and general manager of the team.
History of the Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have had a difficult existence. After joining the NFL in 1970, the team had moderately successful seasons but nothing to get excited about. From 1970 to 1980, the Bengals finished .500 or better seven times but only made the playoffs three times, losing their first game in all three appearances.
From 1980 to 1990, the Bengals were a successful franchise. Although they only made the playoffs four times, they reached two Super Bowls, losing both to the Joe Montana-led 49ers.
Years of failure under Mike Brown
Brown and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones are the only two owners in the NFL that also serve as their team’s primary general manager. While the Cowboys are a historically successful franchise, the Bengals have been anything but.
Since Brown took over for his father in 1991, the Bengals spent nearly 30 years losing. Brown developed a reputation of sticking with failing head coaches too long.
Brown hired Dave Shula in 1992. He led the Bengals to 5-11, 3-13, 3-13, and 7-9 records over his first four seasons. By 1994, he should’ve been gone. Instead, Brown let Shula return in 1996 before ultimately firing him midseason.
Bruce Coslet took over and wasn’t much better. The Bengals finished 8-8 in 1996 but went 7-9 in 1999, 3-13 in 1998, and 4-12 in 1999. Somehow, Coslet returned in 2000 before he was fired after an 0-3 start. Dick LeBeau was then given the job. He went 6-10 in 2001 and 2-14 in 2002. Mercifully, Brown had the wherewithal to jettison LeBeau after just two failed seasons.
The Marvin Lewis era
In 2003, Brown hired the Bengals’ longest-tenured head coach in team history, Marvin Lewis. Overall, Lewis was a successful head coach by record … barely. During his time at the helm, the Bengals went 131-129-3. The problem was Lewis was the epitome of mediocrity. He was just good enough to keep his job.
The Bengals went 8-8 in Lewis’ first two seasons. He probably would’ve been fired had they not made the playoffs in his third season behind second-year starting quarterback Carson Palmer. After Palmer tore his ACL on his first pass attempt in the team’s playoff game against the Steelers, they simply had no chance. In 2006, the Bengals returned to their mediocre ways. They went 8-8, 7-9, and 4-11-1 over the next three years.
Prior to the 2009 season, Lewis was on the precipice of being fired. Once again, he saved himself by leading the Bengals to an AFC North title. But once again, the Bengals were bounced in the first round, this time by the Jets.
After a 4-12 season in 2010, the Bengals selected Andy Dalton in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Under Dalton, the Bengals were consistently good enough to lose. They made the playoffs five consecutive seasons and failed to advance past the Wild Card round. After three straight losing seasons from 2016-2018 and 16 years as head coach of the team, Lewis was fired.
Zac Taylor and hope for the future
During the Bengals’ historic 30 years of failure, fans often called for Brown to step down or at least relinquish general manager duties. Brown was criticized for not caring about winning. Fans would boycott games with hopes of change.
Perhaps it was all worth it. In 2019, Brown pegged Zac Taylor as the guy to turn around the floundering franchise. He went 2-14 in his first season, which led to the Bengals selecting Joe Burrow first overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. There was definitely a chance Taylor wouldn’t make it through his second season, as he went 4-11-1. However, Brown likely gave Taylor a pass after the team lost Burrow to a torn ACL midway through the year.
In 2021, Burrow stayed healthy, and the Bengals won their first AFC North title since 2015. Just two weeks ago, Burrow and the Bengals won their first playoff game since 1990. Today, they sit one win away from their third Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.
Does Mike Brown own any other sports franchises?
Brown is all Bengals all the time. He grew up with the team. Brown spent the first part of his career working under his father and the second part as owner/general manager. Owning and managing the Bengals appears to be his sole occupation.
Although the Bengals have struggled (to put it lightly) under Brown’s watch, the current season should give Brown and fans hope for the future.