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Mike Brown has been a thorn in the franchise side for years, but this year may be the most important year of his executive career. This season, he made moves to get a franchise quarterback and a No. 1 wide receiver, gave up a little of his pride to trade Carson Palmer for an amazing deal and even lowered ticket prices for the following year.
Marvin Lewis, on the other hand, was able to get a team everyone thought to be the next team to go 0-16, and took one of the youngest rosters in the NFL into the playoffs.
The issue with these situations is what they didn't do. Brown let Johnathan Joseph leave in free agency. He allowed his pride to get away with the trading Palmer and refused to shell out the cash to practice in the University of Cincinnati indoor practice facility for their playoff game against Houston. Brown also reportedly wanted Ryan Mallett instead of Andy Dalton (however, it is unknown who was truly right in that situation since Ryan Mallett hasn't started yet). Lewis has shown that he is still very conservative and made some questionable decisions in game this season.
The challenge here, mostly for Brown, is if this team can show they have the maturity to make the necessary changes to upgrade the team. Brown refused to shell out a lot of cash on big name free agents last season, and this season it happened to work out. However, If he wants the Bengals to become a consistent threat in NFL, he is going to have to open that checkbook and get some proven veterans in this locker room to take that next step.
Lewis, on the other hand, has more wiggle room, but still needs to learn to take more chances and go for it on fourth-and-1 in order to make the Bengals less predictable. Which actually leads us to my final point.