Lewis intends to stick with Kitna
NFL.com wire reports
CINCINNATI (April 12, 2003) -- The shuffle is over. Jon Kitna is the quarterback.
Even if the Cincinnati Bengals take quarterback Carson Palmer with the first overall pick in the draft later this month, their plan for the position is clear-cut under new coach Marvin Lewis.
Unlike his predecessor, Lewis doesn't believe in leaving the position in flux during training camp or changing passers willy-nilly during the season.
The job belongs to Kitna.
"Jon enters in with confidence in himself," Lewis said. "And I think this football team has confidence in him."
Lewis is making a clean break with the club's philosophy about its passer.
One of the club's first moves after Lewis took over was to pay Kitna his 2002 performance bonus, even though he came up just short of earning it. Owner Mike Brown initially balked at parting with the large sum of money, but relented after hiring Lewis.
"When they decided to give me the bonus, I felt that was a statement on their part that I was their guy," Kitna said between minicamp workouts. "But security is a fleeting thing."
It was nonexistent last season, when coach Dick LeBeau used three different passers in the first four games. Gus Frerotte gave way to Kitna, who gave way to Akili Smith, who got to start one game against Tampa Bay and was replaced by Kitna for the rest of the season.
The Bengals imploded to 2-14 -- the worst record in franchise history -- in large part because of LeBeau's indecision, which left the offense in disarray and the locker room in turmoil.
"This shuttling guys in and out, I don't know where it helps you very much," Lewis said. "It hasn't been my experience to see that work."
Players are glad that won't happen this time around.
"It shouldn't happen," receiver Chad Johnson said emphatically. "It wouldn't make any sense. If Kit and I get rolling, we have a chance to help this team out. That would be the best way to go, to turn this thing around."
Smith was No. 3 most of last season, but has moved up to the backup role now that Frerotte is gone. Smith was unhappy with the way he was tossed aside after one game last season and considered asking for a trade.
He likes the way Lewis has changed the team's focus, and wouldn't mind sticking around as the No. 2 quarterback, which leaves him first in line if Kitna gets hurt.
"It makes a world of difference," Smith said. "There's a possibility they could draft a quarterback and keep Kitna, me and him. If they decide to do that, I'm ready to answer the challenge."
Lewis' challenge is to get the team turned around this season. A first-round quarterback won't help in the short-term, so the Bengals have considered trading down.
If they can't find a trade partner, they're looking at yet another first-round quarterback -- their third since 1992. David Klingler and Smith were thrown into the lineup before they were ready and never panned out.
If Palmer winds up in Cincinnati, he can expect to be the No. 3 quarterback for a year while Lewis tries to resurrect a team that hasn't had a winning season since 1991.
Kitna would be willing to help develop the new guy.
"I can do some of that," Kitna said. "A No. 1 draft pick is going to be under a lot more scrutiny than I ever was. Obviously some things he's going to have to get from some other people around the league. As far as playing the game, I think I can help somebody out."
Kitna hasn't given it much thought, and has spent the weekend deflecting questions about the No. 1 pick.
"I support whatever decision they make," he said. "For me to state my opinion would be a very negative thing because I haven't done all the research. I haven't been out scouting the guys."
The Associated Press News Service
Maybe he (Kitna) can get it rolling with Johnson the way they did last year. Like the way Lewis is handling this. Paying that bonus shows good faith on their part.