Brown is now acknowledging that he has ceded more control to a committee comprised of coach Marvin Lewis and several members of the Brown family, headlined by executive vice president Katie Blackburn.
"They're doing it now," Brown said Tuesday, via The Cincinnati Enquirer. "The ball has essentially been handed off."
Brown paid himself a bonus of $1 million or more each year from 1991 through at least 2009 as compensation for general manager duties. He remains at team headquarters on a day-to-day basis, explaining, "I can still bark, and they have to make sure they don't step on my toes."
Now that Brown no longer asserts his will with regularity in team meetings, the Bengals' power structure is a mystery.
"I don't know if anyone really knows (the organizational structure) -- I really don't," one AFC general manager told NFL Media's Albert Breer this offseason. "Because that family keeps it close to the vest."
It's clear that the Brown family has begun to rely more heavily on Lewis and his coaching staff for personnel decisions, while Blackburn handles contract matters.
Brown revealed in January that he preferred Colin Kaepernick at quarterback in the 2011 NFL Draft, only to relent to Jay Gruden on Andy Dalton. Per Breer, Gruden and new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson also convinced Brown to draft Giovani Bernard, who didn't fit the owner's mold for a tailback in 2013.
With Brown at the controls, the Bengals were a laughingstock for nearly two decades. Over the past five years, though, the drafts have noticeably improved, resulting in three consecutive playoff appearances for the first time in franchise history.
"Do I take credit for that?" Brown quipped. "I wasn't out there taking credit when it wasn't going well, so maybe I ought to shut up and not take credit when it's gone a little better."
Lewis' 90-90-1 record is less impressive than one would expect for the second-longest tenured head coach in the league, but it stands out against the combined 55-149 (.270) mark for all other Bengals coaches under Brown.
As long as Lewis and director of player personnel Duke Tobin are pulling the strings on the football side of the operation, the head coach will enjoy as much job security as any other save Bill Belichick.