Bengals coach Bruce Coslet became the first coaching casualty of the season when he resigned on Monday in frustration over the team's toothless 0-3 start. Coslet, who took over midway through the 1996 season, was 7-28 in his last 35 games. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau takes over. "Can it make a difference?" owner Mike Brown said on Monday. "I've seen it happen. But I can tell you it won't be easy."
In fact, there's no reason to believe that LeBeau will fare any better than Coslet did. The talent gap between the Bengals and the other 30 teams is pronounced. Of the 134 players that Cincinnati drafted from 1987 through 1999, only a pair of 1992 picks, wideout Carl Pickens and safety Darryl Williams, have started in the Pro Bowl. And Williams, who resigned with the Bengals as a free agent during the off-season, did it as a member of the Seahawks.
Because many free agents think of Cincinnati as Siberia, rebuilding is difficult. Until the team imports a strong general manager who can take personnel decisions from Brown and enhance the club's image among players and agents, the gap between the Bengals and the rest of the NFL will only widen.