Bengals Coach Coslet Quits

Monday, September 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CINCINNATI (AP) — Cincinnati Bengals coach Bruce Coslet quit Monday, a day after his team lost its third game in a row and second straight without scoring a point.

The Bengals, the NFL's worst team of the past decade, appointed defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau the new coach.

``He's a good teacher ... he's good with players,'' Bengals owner and president Mike Brown said. ``I think he can step in now and get our situation back on course as quickly as anybody could.''

The Bengals have been outscored 74-7 this season. They haven't had a winning season since 1990 and have gone 10 years without making the playoffs, the longest current streak in the league.

Coslet coached the New York Jets from 1990-93 and became coach of the Bengals in 1996. Under Coslet, the Bengals were 7-9 in 1997, 3-13 in 1998 and 4-12 in 1999.

Brown said he was surprised by the resignation.

``It was hard for me because he's a good man, a friend and a good coach,'' Brown said. ``That was his call and he made it. It's behind us now.''

This is LeBeau's first NFL head coaching job, and the Bengals said no other staff changes were planned. LeBeau thinks the Bengals can win this season with the players they have.

``This is an honor,'' he said. ``All of the coaches recognize this is a challenge.''

Defensive back Cory Hall said the players respect LeBeau.

``Look at the defense we run. He put that package together,'' Hall said. ``I trust him 100 percent.''

Coslet had twice been offensive coordinator with the Bengals before he became head coach. LeBeau, whose specialty is defense, plans to have offensive coordinator Ken Anderson, a former Bengals quarterback, call the team's offensive plays.

LeBeau is a former star cornerback for the Detroit Lions. As defensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers he oversaw the zone-blitz defenses that made the Steelers one of the NFL's top defensive teams in the mid-1990s.

The Bengals' 37-0 loss on Sunday in Baltimore was further evidence of their futility on offense. They had lost 13-0 the Sunday before in Jacksonville after a 24-7 loss at home on Sept. 10.

The Bengals are under increased pressure to win because taxpayers paid for the $453 million Paul Brown Stadium in which the Bengals started play this season.

Former Bengals wide receiver Carl Pickens criticized the team for retaining Coslet as the 1999 season ended. The Bengals released Pickens, their all-time leading receiver, who now plays for the Tennessee Titans.

The Bengals set an NFL record by losing 107 games in the 1990s, 108 if the Jan. 2 loss in Jacksonville is included.

Cincinnati's total of seven points in the first three games is the lowest for a three-game stretch since the 1978 team scored three points in three weeks during a 4-12 season. Sunday's loss was the 28th in 35 games under Coslet.

``That was about as thorough a beating as you'll see,'' Brown said after watching the Bengals rush for just four yards in the Baltimore game.

``There have to be changes,'' Bengals defensive end John Copeland said on the team's Web site. ``Each and every player has to change what they are doing.

``It starts with the players. If we don't do it, it can't be done by anybody else,'' Copeland said.

The Bengals dipped into the free-agent market during the offseason, signing safety Darryl Williams and defensive linemen Tom Barndt and Vaughn Booker.

The 63-year-old LeBeau has also served on the coaching staffs of the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers. Coslet brought him back to Cincinnati for a second tour of duty.

He was defensive coordinator under Sam Wyche when Cincinnati advanced to the Super Bowl following the 1988 season. LeBeau's defense allowed an average of 11 points per game in three postseason games to get the Bengals into the Super Bowl, which they lost to San Francisco.

LeBeau played at Ohio State before playing for the Lions from 1959 to 1972. He set a durability record for cornerbacks by playing 171 consecutive games. When he retired, his 62 interceptions ranked third in NFL history.