Bratkowski firing might show change in Bengals' power base

The Cincinnati Bengals' Monday firing of longtime offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski could be the first sign that coach Marvin Lewis owns more control of the team after signing his recent contract extension. Part of Lewis' return hinged on him having more say in all personnel matters, even though team owner Mike Brown has the last word.

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Shortly after Lewis signed the two-year deal in early January, I spoke to someone with the organization who wasn't sure if the coach would be able to make changes on his offensive staff, which was desired after the Bengals fell to 4-12 following their AFC North title campaign of 2009. Brown's reluctance for change remained the concern. But by letting go of Bratkowski, who just completed his 10th season and was inherited by Lewis, it's clear the coach received at least part of his wish, with more changes possibly coming.

Bratkowski's firing came after the Bengals' staff, including Bratkowski, coached the North team in Saturday's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Keep in mind, the Senior Bowl is where many assistant coaching changes are orchestrated, and Lewis might have been gauging possible replacements if the team doesn't hire someone who's already on staff, such as quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese.

Bratkowski, who was highly unpopular with fans, changed the Bengals from a successful running team in 2009 to a more pass-oriented team after the free-agent acquisition of wide receiver Terrell Owens and the drafting of tight end Jermaine Gresham and wide receiver Jordan Shipley. Running back Cedric Benson routinely criticized the change in philosophy, and an offensive line that's built to run the ball was exposed in pass protection.

Though quarterback Carson Palmer passed for 3,970 yards, he also tied a career high with 20 interceptions, with blame being thrust on him and poor route integrity by his receivers. Palmer recently requested to be traded and threatened to retire, but Brown said the quarterback won't be dealt.

Firing Bratkowski could be, in part, to appease Palmer. However, from what I've been told, Lewis wanted to make the move before Palmer's recent trade request.

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