CINCINNATI -- With their 2014 draft complete, NFL teams will now find out in the flesh if their reports, evaluations and insights about individual players were on the money or just more Internet blather.
While organizations devote great time and countless resources to gathering intelligence on potential draft picks, the late Paul Brown had a uniquely personal approach to vetting a young man’s suitability for his Bengals.
One incident stands out. In the early 1980’s, cocaine was sweeping through the league like a white tsunami. Strangely it and other illegal street drugs weren’t among the list of substances the league tested for. Legend has it some players ‘tooted’ before and again at half time of games to get their motor’s really running.
P.B. didn’t like his players being in other than their right mind. He once smelled alcohol on a guy’s breath as he boarded a team bus. He was cut on the spot. The Hall of Fame coach had another olfactory approach to weed out cocaine users too.
It was during a private moment in 1983 that he tipped me off to his ad hoc testing procedure, that was based on a revealing (to me at least) premise:
“Dennis, cocaine burns the hair out of your nostrils when you sniff it.”
How he had ascertained that physiological assertion was a question that went unasked: “Really,” was the sum and substance of my response.
He went on to explain the fascinating methodology at the root of the fried follicle theory.
“When we bring in a young man for a visit, I naturally have a long talk with him. I’ll stand next to him and will casually give his beezer the once over. By way of demonstration he bent his knees slightly and, angling his neck as if peering up a chimney, showed how he could surreptitiously check a prospects schnozola for the appropriate fur.
“If he doesn’t have any I suspect he uses that cocaine stuff." Conversely, I presumed if the young man in question had a luxurious tuft of nasal mane, drug abuse wasn’t among his vices.
I’ve related the episode to Bengals officials and some of his former players over the years and it never fails to elicit a knowing laugh.
The improbability of the legend taking a peak up some guys beak gives way to the realization that Brown would indeed leave no stone unturned nor nose un-perused to get the right man for the job.