Sports Today: Bengals, Browns enter free agency with wildly different agendas


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Sports Today: Bengals, Browns enter free agency with wildly different agendas

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CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 23: Head Coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals and Head Coach Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns shake hands after the completion of the game at Paul Brown Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Cleveland 31-17. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)

The NFL’s 2018 league year begins today. 

The Cleveland Browns have already been busy, and the Cincinnati Bengals made a big move Monday to address their biggest need. 

What’s next? 

Well, the world seems to be Cleveland’s oyster, as it usually is in the offseason before games come back around to get in the way. 

The Bengals are probably back in conservative mode after spending some money and a little draft capital to acquire Cordy Glenn to play offensive tackle. 

That’s a good thing overall even if it would be more fun for media and fans to see them make another splash or two this month. 

If a team is being conservative, that means it has a lot of things to like on its roster. 

Sometimes that team is wrong, and the last two years in Cincinnati are an example of that. 

The Bengals’ having consecutive losing seasons is almost entirely a result of trusting in some draft picks who didn’t work out. 

If they had a better coach or quarterback, they probably would have won a few more games, but the rest of the roster still would not have been good enough to get it done in January. 

I believe as we sit here today there is a chance it will be a lot better this fall, but obviously that depends heavily on how they do in the draft. 

The development of youngsters such as Joe Mixon, Andrew Billings, Carl Lawson, Williams Jackson III and Nick Vigil will be crucial, too, but those guys have already shown more promise than the ones who let them down over the last two years. 

Actually getting something out of John Ross or Cedric Ogbuehi wouldn’t hurt, either…


The NCAA tournament started last night with the first night of the First Four

Yes, I count these as NCAA tournament games even if they aren’t the same as playing in the round of 64. 

The goal has been to make the teams who are in Dayton to start the week feel like they are at one of those weekend sites, and by most accounts that has been met if not exceeded. 

The original play-in game was a dumb concept. 

Having four of the No. 16s who already won automatic bids have to play an extra game before two of them lose to a No. 1 seed is still dumb for multiple reasons, but last night was a reminder teams like Radford really do value the ability to win an “NCAA tournament game.” 

St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt seemed to feel the same way after his team beat UCLA as he got a bit emotional on the postgame interview with Turner Sports. 

So the First Four has morphed into a pretty cool event. 

It would be even better if all eight teams playing Tuesday or Wednesday at UD Arena were at-large teams who only marginally deserved to make the field anyway, a move that I don’t understand not being made since that would probably also increase television ratings because it would involve more teams with big names and larger fan bases. 

That said, the smaller schools getting invited also give the two days in Dayton a little more of that all-around tournament feel because they would be part of the action at a traditional regional, too. 

Part of the fun last year for me was hearing North Carolina Central’s pep band rock out and Mount St. Mary’s mascot Emmit S. Burg own a dance-off with the New Orleans Privateer. 

NCCU coach LeVelle Morton’s majestic sport coat was also as memorable as his confirmation the experience, environment and opportunity were great for his team. 

“It was tremendous,” Moton said of the atmosphere after his team lost to fellow No. 16 seed UC Davis. “The fans and the energy, and you could feel the tension in the air.

“And I think it’s some neutral fans here, probably just Dayton fans who just love basketball, and I think after a while they just chose a side.“That’s what March Madness is about.” 

Morton and the Eagles are back in Dayton tonight to take on Texas Southern, a matchup that is a little controversial as it involves the only two historically black colleges or universities in the field. 

“I hate it,” Moton said. “I hate that it has to be two HBCUs clashing, because I have the ultimate respect for (Mike Davis’) program. And truth be told we’ve kind of been the representation of each league, and I wanted the world to be able to see what each league can offer. It’s unfortunate, but it’s best to be on this side of the coin than on the other side not getting a bid at all and not having to play anyone and having your season be over with.”

The nightcap will pit Arizona State against Syracuse in the absolute epitome what a First Four matchup should be.

Both of those teams have 20 wins, but they would have had no legitimate complaints if they were left out entirely… 

Sticking with college basketball, there is a report out there that Thad Matta could be the next coach at Georgia. 

I understand the former Ohio State coach wanting to give it another go, but I’m not sure this is a great idea for either side. 

I suspect Georgia’s expectations for basketball are similar to Ohio State’s — just high enough to get you fired if you’re not great

That can be a problem if the institution is also, while certainly interested in being good at basketball, most deeply committed to football. 

Matta was a great coach for many years at Ohio State, but basically everything about his program had gone into decline by the time he was finished. 

If there was still anything exceptional being done, he would probably still be in charge in Columbus. 

Lots of attention has gone to his recruiting, especially with more people being made aware of the seedy underbelly of talent acquisition and claims Matta’s unwillingness to take part cost him players.

But that was far from the only problem in Columbus the last few years. 

He was bringing in good enough players to continue to be an NCAA tournament team at the worst, one that would make noise in the Big Ten race at least from time to time. 

That much was proven by this season. 

The lack of ability to develop skill or chemistry, whether that was more on Matta or the staff he hired, was what sealed his fate. 

Maybe the magic will be rekindled at a new place, but I won’t believe it until I see it. 

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