104, by the 1986 Eagles
We, the undersigned, hereby petition that Mike Brown, owner and general manager of the Cincinnati Bengals, free quarterback Akili Smith from the quagmire of clipboard duties.
Smith, 27, was chosen #3 overall in the 1999 draft. He has started just seventeen games over his NFL career, with decidedly poor results. But he is the future of a team whose present is not worth mentioning. The Bengals, off to an 0-4 start, suck. Only one team in ten years has opened 0-4 and made the playoffs. The team is nowhere near competitive, and sticking with Gus Frerotte (31 years old) or Jon Kitna (30) delays the rebuilding process yet another year.
Just three years ago, Bengal fans were chanting rabidly as Smith bested Tim Couch's Browns, 18-17. (Couch was taken #1 overall in the 1999 draft.) Since then, Couch has been given the reigns and the confidence a young quarterback needs to thrive. Even in the face of Kelly Holcomb's outstanding two games this year, the Browns management stuck by their man in Couch. Akili, on the other hand, was given one start -- against one of the better defenses in the NFL -- and once again finds himself wasting away.
Is Smith a bust? Perhaps. But no more so than the Bengals of the last ten years. It's time for the Bengals to put the "future" into the game now, for if not now, when? The obvious answer, based on the actions of the Cincinnati brass, is "Never." Why let an asset sit on the sidelines?
If Smith isn't started, we ask Mr. Brown that he trade Akili to a team that will at least give him a shot. If he ends up stinking up the circuit, fine! It will give us another Ryan Leaf to laugh at.
Mr. Brown, we urge you -- Free Akili.