The Bengals are, indeed, a young club. Brown, unlike Tom Fears of the New Orleans Saints, did not opt for veterans, hoping for early success. Whenever there was a choice among the players made available to the Bengals by the other clubs in the expansion draft, he went for youth.
"The Saints wound up with veterans in 18 out of the 22 starting positions," he said. "They traded away draft choices for players like Jim Taylor; and they worked hard early. Tom Fears is a fine coach; and he did a remarkable job winning five exhibition games with a new club, but we're going to take it easier. We know this is a long haul, but we have time."
But Brown did trade two draft choices to the Miami Dolphins for Quarterback John Stofa. Stofa, before he was injured last year, had shown himself capable of handling a No. 1 quarterback's job. "You have to have the quarterback," Brown explained. "And then you have to have a top center." His first college draft choice was Bob Johnson. A 6'5", 250-pound center from Tennessee, who meets all of Brown's demands, Johnson was an All-America, an exceptionally fine student, a leader and a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Then Brown brought 125 athletes to Wilmington and—in the first 10 days—weeded out 50. Unlike Fears, who had his hopefuls knocking heads on their second day in training camp, Brown did not scrimmage his team until after the 50 were gone.
"We tested them on the four things you can determine absolutely by testing," he explained. "Intelligence, pure speed, agility and ability to learn football. Those things, plus size, you can determine without scrimmage. We put all the players through our tests. The ones who were lacking were sent home. There is no point in scrimmaging a boy you know is not going to make your team. There is no need to bruise him and no need for you to waste time on him. I would rather concentrate my time on the players who will be with me during the season."
The players in camp are learning slowly and thoroughly, as did the old Browns. He gives the squad only two new plays a day—a running play in the morning, a passing play in the afternoon. "One school of thought is give them as many plays as you can as quickly as you can, then polish them," Brown says. "I'd rather go slow, make sure they can execute each play, then polish."
He started his training camp a week later than Fears did with the Saints. He had consulted Fears and talked on the phone to Norb Hecker, who coaches Atlanta, in trying to work out a schedule for his expansion team.
"Tom told me he thought he had started a week too early," Brown explained. "By the time the season was half over the players and coaches couldn't stand to look at each other."
The Bengals' daily routine is the same as the old Brown routine at Cleveland. Brown probably works his players less physically than any other coach in the business. He is the only man in pro football who gives his players Monday and Tuesday off after a Sunday game. "I'll do it with the Bengals, too," he said. "I want them fresh and alert." By the same token, he works his players mentally more than most coaches do, giving them written tests on assignments.
Sherrill Headrick, 31-year-old middle linebacker who came to the Bengals from the Kansas City Chiefs, finds the Brown regime a welcome one. "It's much better organized here," he said, resting on the sideline after a scrimmage. His face was streaming sweat and he thirstily gulped a lime drink. "I don't want to seem to be knocking the Chiefs, because they were good to me. But here you know just what you're going to do all the time, and I like that. There's no wasted motion."
He mopped his face with a towel and looked out on the field. "With the Chiefs, it was bang, bang, bang, right from the start," he said. "My legs would give out from under me. Here we don't go that hard. At Kansas City last year we won our first four exhibitions and ran out of gas before the season ended. Here we're getting ready for the ones that count."