It was not the best of beginnings for the Cincinnati Bengals of the AFL. Playing their first exhibition game—and their first game ever—the Bengals looked pretty much the way most new franchise teams look, ragged and outmanned, losing to the Kansas City Chiefs 38-14. In brief, it was not a game to remember. What made the occasion noteworthy, however, was the presence on the sidelines of the Cincinnati coach, a small, slim man wearing a neat business suit, a straw hat and a grim expression familiar to anyone who followed the great Cleveland Brown teams of the '50s and early '60s. After an absence of five years, Paul Brown was back in pro football.
Brown (see cover) had not anticipated a miracle from his new team in its first game. "It was about what we expected," he said later. "We have no complaints." After Kansas City had marched for a touchdown in the first quarter, Cincinnati's Warren McVea made a good return of the ensuing kickoff, only to fumble. The Chiefs then ground out a second touchdown, thus consuming the rest of the first period. "That's the first time I can ever remember going a full quarter without the ball," Brown said after the game.
About the only moment of excitement for Bengal rooters among the 21,682 fans occurred in the second quarter when Defensive Back Sol Brannan scooped up a Kansas City fumble, hurdled one tackier, shook off another and went 75 yards for a touchdown to make the score a respectable 14-7. But after that it was all downhill. "I knew it had to be," said Brown, "but I was thinking all the time it might not be so bad."
Brown is part owner, coach, general manager and the absolute boss of the Bengals. The years he was away from football were years in purgatory, and he looks forward to coaching with all the enthusiasm he had when he began at Severn Prep, 38 years ago. And he is the same Paul Brown. Bengal practices have been indistinguishable in routine and atmosphere from the old Cleveland practices: only the names of the players and their skills have been changed. Brown is a master organizer, with each minute of each practice planned and timed. The fact that the Bengals, new and untried, cannot assimilate his instructions as quickly nor execute them as adroitly as the veteran Brown teams he once coached, does not disturb him. He feeds them football knowledge in smaller doses and then patiently goes over and over assignments with them."
"Patience with this club is an easy virtue," Brown was saying just a few days before the game with Kansas City. "There is no fierce pressure on you to win."
The coach, at 59, looks much the same as he did 10 years ago. He weighs 160, a weight he has kept for 30 years, and his face, tanned evenly, is unlined. When you first look at him, you are surprised by his eyes. They are big, almost luminous, and candidly direct. He looks like a forceful man. He is exactly that.
Psychologically, as well as physically, Brown seems unchanged. When he first assembled the college draftees and veteran rejects from other AFL clubs who make up his expansion team he made the same speech he used to make to the Cleveland Browns before each season, and, as usual, he invited the local press to sit in.
It is not a long speech, but it is notably direct. Brown tells the players what he expects of them, on and off the field, what sacrifices they will have to make to win and what penalties they may expect if they transgress his rules. The rules are reasonable and strict.
"The other day a writer came to camp to see me," Brown said. "He was from the East and I did not know him very well, but I could sense immediately what he was after. He had come to do a story on the 'new' Paul Brown. After a while I think he went away disappointed. There is no new Paul Brown. I see no reason why there should be. I think my record stands up well enough.
"You know, when my wife Katy and I were in La Jolla," he continued, "I was reading the paper one morning after George Allen had won eight games and lost six in his first season as head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. The papers were full of praise, and they hailed him as a miracle man. He is a fine coach, a really good one, but I pointed out to my wife the irony of the situation: for almost exactly the same record in 1962 (7-6-1) I lost a job in Cleveland and nearly had to sneak out of town. I suppose it's all in what people are used to."