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The year’s must-see NFL game for football fans in the state of Ohio turned out to be the contest that one of the most ardent fans had to miss. With it went one of the most impressive streaks that the league has ever seen: Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown had to stay home.

The Brown family has been prominent in pro football

A number of NFL teams have largely been family operations over the years –including the Rooneys with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Maras with the New York Giants, and the Fords with the Detroit Lions.

The Brown family has deep roots in two franchises. Paul Brown co-founded the Cleveland Browns of the All-America Football Conference and brought them to the NFL, where he won three championships from 1950-55 as the coach. After being fired by Art Modell, Brown helped build the Cincinnati Bengals from scratch beginning in 1968.

Brown retired from coaching in 1975 but remained team president until dying in 1991. He was succeeded as the owner and president of the organization by son Mike Brown, who had worked in various capacities with the Bengals since 1968.

The new era has been rough for Cincinnati Bengals fans

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Paul Brown’s death in the summer of 1991 marked a turning point for the Cincinnati Bengals. The franchise had gone 29-19 over the previous three seasons, losing Super Bowl 23 to the San Francisco 49ers in January 1989.

The dropoff under son Mike Brown was precipitous. There would be a total of just 14 wins over the first four seasons in the new era, and the Bengals did not post their first winning season under Mike Brown until 2005. They could not log consecutive winning seasons until 2011-12.

The consistent criticism of Brown has been his refusal to turn over football decisions to a general manager. It’s the same problem cited by some as holding back the Dallas Cowboys under Jerry Jones.

The Bengals have posted a weak 182-255-2 record (.414 winning percentage) under Brown entering the 2020 season and have yet to win a playoff game in his tenure.

Mike Brown’s magnificent streak comes to an end

The Week 2 Thursday night game shaped up as a great local clash for bragging rights between the two teams from the state of Ohio. The Cincinnati Bengals (Joe Burrow) and Cleveland Browns (Baker Mayfield) each started a No. 1 overall draft pick and Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback in a nationally televised game before a limited crown due to the pandemic.

And for the first time in his affiliation with the Bengals, team president Mike Brown had to miss a regular-season or playoff game. Brown, 85, was advised by his doctor to not travel to Cleveland because of the COVID-19 threat.

His decision to stay home ended a streak of 824 consecutive games that he had attended. According to, the only game of any sort that he had missed until now was a preseason game in 1991 in order to stay by the side of his father, who died shortly afterward.

“I’m the age I am and I check all the boxes and I’m told it’s foolish to do it,” Brown said. “It comes down to a decision and maybe it’s time to start doing stuff like this. I’m just at the age I have to go about life a little differently.”