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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
There he is, Paul Brown, stalking the sideline, getting ready to send in another play, to push the button to put his Cincinnati Bengal robots into motion. Clink, clank, whistle. Another button. Clink, clank, whistle. In Cleveland they may still believe that's the way cold, aloof, mechanical, stereotyped Paul Brown operates. They're wrong.
"Coach," says Bob Trumpy, the tight end, "that Denver strong safety is taking me all the way and he isn't too fast."
"Bob," says Brown, "do you want to give it a whirl?"
"Yeah, let's go."
Then Brown sends in the play. Greg Cook, the rookie quarterback, drops back seven yards to his own 14, puts the ball in the air. The strong safety isn't that fast. Trumpy catches the ball on the Denver 44 and goes in to score.
Now the game is over, and the Bengals have won 13-11, to close their exhibition season with three straight victories after two losses. In the field house Brown stands among his laughing players, shaking his head. It had rained early in the game and his suit is a mess, his shoes are muddy. "Look at me," he says with mock despair. "Now you see the real, cold, brutal Paul Brown." And even he has to laugh. "Now you see why coaching is a way of life to me. It's great to coach a team that's fighting for its life, kids that are exuberant and have this real joy of playing. Look at these kids. It's great."
Bill Bergey, the rookie linebacker, waves as he heads toward the door. "Real nice game, coach."
"Hey, you played the game, not me," Brown yells. Then he adds softly, "Isn't that refreshing? What a kid! Sure, I still call the plays, but it isn't such a cold business as people think. The Paul Brown that everybody talks about isn't the real Paul Brown. That one is just a figment of the New York writers' imagination, created when the Browns and the Giants were in their heyday."
And that is as close as Paul Brown ever comes to defending himself against the critics who forced him into exile almost seven years ago. If he was bitter at being fired by Cleveland, where he won four All-America Conference and three NFL championships, he hid it. "Bitter people bore me," he says. "They say football passed me by, and I say that time has the answer for everything. And I'll also say that going into our second year at Cincinnati our schedule is running right on time."
And what is the schedule?