TDBH: Boomer salutes Bengals for ‘doing me right,’ in trade to Jets
March 17, 2018 04:00 AM | Geoff Hobson

The two Cincinnati newspapers embrace Boomer Esiason's trade to the Jets today for a third-round pick this year and a conditional second-rounder next year with all the trappings of a presidential visit or an election night or a federal disaster. There are A-1 stories and C-6 sidebars and file photos mixed with press conference shots and quote boards of reaction. This is big because this is Norman Julius Esiason, the blond, brash, and bold Bengals quarterback who is one of the most visible pro athletes in the county. Jack Brennan writes the next day in The Cincinnati Enquirer's A-1 story that he is "the most interesting player in this city's 26-year pro football history." Team spokesman during the 1987 strike. NFL MVP in 1988. 1989 cover boy. "The one thing people have a tendency to miss is his heart is a lot bigger than his mouth," says former Bengals left tackle Anthony Munoz.

The trade is big news but no surprise. Esiason privately asks Bengals president Mike Brown for a trade in the days following the 1991 season after his play declined with the team for a second straight year and Sam Wyche is no longer the head coach. Brown says he is too valuable and won't do it, yet Brown shocks the world in the 1992 draft with that in mind and selects Houston quarterback David Klingler with the sixth pick. Only he and Esiason know. And it is obvious a move must be made as head coach Dave Shula's first season sputters along and Esiason privately seethes as Shula fails to defend him publicly while he's betrayed by young receivers and an overmatched offensive line. Esiason's benching in November guarantees that Brown is shopping him once the trading period opens March 1. The Bucs, coached by Wyche, drop out. The Raiders want to give only a mid-round pick. So it is The Jets. The Jets, the Long Island native Esiason's hometown Jets. The Jets, coached by his good friend Bruce Coslet, his offensive coordinator in the Bengals' glory days. Esiason thanks Brown for "doing me right," and says he has a few regrets leaving Cincinnati. "Mostly it's that I never got the chance to finish the thing we were building here,' he says. "I didn't want to have to go out on two losing notes, two consecutive losing seasons, and especially when you have a new coach like we did last season, the quarterback is the most visual and focal personality." While the rudderless Bengals are looking for a leader ("Not only was he the leader on the field, he did all the talking," says tight end Jim Riggs), Brown muses, "I have a bit of a pang upon doing this ... It seemed that Boomer would end his career as a Bengal. But things happen and it came to the point where this seemed the only alternative."

After the Bengals get the extra pick (Ohio State linebacker Steve Tovar for the trivia buffs) the trade begins a chain of almost supernatural events. The Bengals don't get the conditional pick because Esiason's 84.5 passer rating falls below the 89 needed, Coslet is fired after an 8-8 season, and when he returns to the Bengals as OC the next season he brings Jets No. 3 quarterback Jeff Blake with him. Blake becomes the starter Klingler couldn't be and when Coslet becomes Bengals head coach in 1997 he brings back Esiason to back up Blake for one final run and by the last five games Esiason has supplanted Blake with a 4-1 rip-roaring revival in which he finishes with a career-best 106.9 rating that has no conditions. "I'm sitting here with mixed emotions about that," says Esiason of the Bengals-Jets game in Jersey that has yet to be set on the 1993 schedule. "I don't think it will be played at Riverfront Stadium, which I'm very happy for. I love that place. I always felt like I would win a championship there. ... The Bengals are getting so many new players, by the time we play them next year I probably won't know half of them. So it won't be that difficult playing them."

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