The quarterback controversy is over in Cincinnati, where Neil O'Donnell was named the Bengals starter ahead of incumbent Jeff Blake on Sunday.
"Neil has been consistent in moving the offense, and that's really the key," Bengals coach Bruce Coslet said. "He'll be a good leader for us. He's got a confident personality, but he's not going to get too excited."
The announcement came after O'Donnell was 15-for-18 for 147 yards and a touchdown in Friday's 33-19 exhibition victory over the Detroit Lions. He has completed 68 percent of his passes (26-of-38) for 254 yards and two TDs without an interception in three preseason games.
"I've been focusing on learning the offense and I think I'm about 85 percent there," he said. "Now my focus is to help this team win. It's going to take more than just the quarterback, but I'm ready to do my part. I've been in this league long enough that the glamour of just being in the NFL is ancient history. The only thing that matters now is winning."
Blake, like O'Donnell a former Jet, is 9-for-22 for 133 yards with three interceptions in the preseason. He started 52 consecutive games for Cincinnati until he was benched last season for Boomer Esiason.
After tossing 52 touchdowns in 1995 and 1996, Blake had just eight last year in guiding the Bengals to a 3-8 record. With Esiason at the helm, Cincinnati won four of its last five games and finished 7-9. But Esiason retired to accept an offer to work on Monday Night Football.
O'Donnell signed a fiv-year, $25 million free-agent contract with the New York Jets in 1996 after guiding the Pittsburgh Steelers to Super Bowl XXX. But he lost the starting job last season to Glenn Foley and feuded with new Jets coach Bill Parcells.
An on-field dispute between the two erupted on the sidelines in the regular-season finale at Detroit, a 13-10 loss that cost New York a playoff spot.
In 1997, O'Donnell completed 56 percent of his passes for 2,796 yards and 17 touchdowns with seven interceptions.
© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved