During that time, Brown had several offers to return to the NFL as a coach, but he turned them down. Almost every time a coaching vacancy occurred, Brown was mentioned as a possible replacement. Often, he had actually been approached.
"I couldn't go back unless I was in complete charge," he said, spreading his hands as if appealing for understanding. "I had had it both ways—when the Browns started—and for a long time after, I was in complete charge. The players knew that I was the only man they could appeal to. There was no one over my head that they could see. And that is the way it must be. If it is done any other way, in time you will see the whole structure begin to crumble, and all at once a good team will begin to slide. It is inevitable. The history of all successful teams shows authority concentrated in the coach."
Brown, of course, has all the authority he deems necessary with the Bengals. Although he does not own a majority of the stock, he, in effect, votes a majority.
"The players can't go beyond me," he says. "That's the way it should be."
With the Bengals—as with the Browns—the coach will devote all his time to football once the season starts. He will not lay a hand on a golf club or a dry martini from now until after the Bengals play their last season game. Judging from the way last Saturday's exhibition game went, a martini may tempt him grievously before this season is over.
Brown was not generously stocked by the other owners in the AFL. He does not complain, since he knows very well the facts of life in professional football; he knows well, also, that this will probably be the second losing season in his 17 years of pro coaching.
While he was sequestered in La Jolla, three new football teams were born—in New Orleans, Atlanta and Miami. The Saints, youngest of the trio, trained in San Diego last year, virtually in Brown's backyard, and he spent every afternoon he could watching their labor pains. By the time the Saints began working out in San Diego, he was almost certain that he would be back in pro football under terms he could live with.
"In the summer of 1965, Bill Hackett came to visit me," Brown said. Bill Hackett is Dr. William Hackett of London, Ohio, who played for Brown on the 1943 Ohio State football team. He is now on the board of directors of the Bengals. Brown's son Mike had made a study of the area around Cincinnati and had decided that it was, considering the concentration of population, potentially a much more attractive site for a new club than almost any other location in the country. "Bill and I talked it over and the next day he called me," Brown said. "He said he could not sleep thinking about the possibility of a pro club in Cincinnati. We decided then to see if we could get it off the ground."
With Brown's name as lure, it was not difficult to find backers. During the next two years, with his usual meticulous care, Brown screened possible assistant coaches, training sites, administrative assistants and even publicity directors. His Bengal staff represents the result of this careful selection.
The staff put together extensive offensive and defensive play books in preparing for the season, but the books were severely curtailed soon after camp opened. "We had a meeting and I said, 'Let's call time out,' " Brown said, and laughed. "We weren't coaching the Cleveland Browns with maybe two rookies a year breaking in. This was a team of rookies."