Marvin Lewis chuckled at the question.
Then he quipped during a conference call with the Cleveland media Wednesday: “You’re trying to get me in trouble?”
Just ask him to answer a not-so-simple question: Given Paul Brown’s affiliation with both the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, and given Lewis has worked for the Brown family since 2002, where should a statue of the legendary coach be placed?
“[Answering] politically,” Lewis said, “there would be two, right?”
Then he answered non-politically.
“Put a statue up there on the Lake,” Lewis said, indicating that Brown’s legend began with the Browns and that he already has a stadium named after him in Cincinnati.
Brown already has two statues in his memory -- one at Massilon High School in Ohio, where he coached, and one at Miami of Ohio, where he played quarterback.
Brown coached the Browns from 1946 through 1962. He won four championships in the old All America Football Conference, three in the NFL after the Browns joined the league in 1950. His teams played in nine NFL Championship games in 10 years in the '50s, when they were led by Otto Graham.
Brown coached African-Americans Marion Motley and Bill Willis on his 1946 team, a year before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball. He also drafted Jim Brown.
But he was fired after the 1962 season by Art Modell, a move that left him angry and bitter. When the NFL expanded to Cincinnati in 1968, Brown became part owner and coach. He coached the Bengals in 1975, and he taught his offense to assistant Bill Walsh, who took it to San Francisco where it was dubbed the “West Coast” offense.
Walsh, though, always gave credit to Paul Brown for designing the offense.
If a statue is reserved for the best of the best, Brown is most deserving.
And if ever a man deserved one in two cities, it might be Brown.
Lewis, though, advocated for Cleveland, where Brown’s career began -- in part because Paul Brown Stadium stands on the Ohio River.
“You would have to put it outside the stadium in Cleveland, wouldn’t ya?” Lewis said. “I just think (because) he started with the Cleveland Browns and (he got) football going there like he did, and at the standard and the level it was played at when he was there.”