Photo Credit: FootballScoop
Co-Written by Hank Gerhardt and Ryan Sullivan
Earlier this week the Cincinnati Bengals fired Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Lewis’ tenure was filled with ups and downs that amounted to a 131-122-3 record over 16 seasons with Cincinnati. The team saw seven winning seasons with Lewis at the helm and was only under .500 five times. He took the Bengals to the playoffs seven times and lost all seven games. Although in the last few years the city has soured on him, he took a bottom-dwelling franchise and made it competitive on a year to year basis.
Lewis inherited a team that won two games the previous season and hadn’t had a winning season in over a decade. In 2003, his first year, the team had a six-win improvement and finished second in the AFC North. After sitting first overall pick Carson Palmer behind Jon Kitna, the Bengals handed Palmer the reigns in the 2004 season and led them to another 8-8 season. For the first time in 15 years, the Bengals were exciting again. In 2005, Carson Palmer led the league in touchdowns and completion percentage and the Bengals jumped to 11-5, won the division, and made the playoffs for the first time since 1990. After a few years of hovering around .500, the franchise turned a new leaf by drafting Andy Dalton and A.J. Green in the 2011 draft. For five consecutive seasons, the Bengals were in the playoffs following that draft. From 1968-2002 the Bengals had made the playoffs seven times. Lewis matched that total in his first thirteen seasons. Even with this unprecedented consistency, there was a lot to be desired.
In 2005, the Bengals lost in the Wildcard Round. In 2009, the Bengals lost in the Wildcard Round. In 2011, the Bengals lost in the Wildcard Round. In 2012, the Bengals lost in the Wildcard Round. In 2013, the Bengals lost in the Wildcard Round. In 2014, the Bengals lost in the Wildcard Round. In 2015, the Bengals lost in the Wildcard Round. The consistency is remarkable. Obviously, the playoff record is inexcusable, but one thing that is not mentioned when people talk about Marvin Lewis is that in his 16 years the Bengals never earned a first-round bye. To have tenure so long without any truly excellent seasons is laughable. When you look at other tenures as long as Marvin’s, they all have one thing in common: a Super Bowl win. Not only did Marvin not win a Super Bowl, but he also couldn’t even win a Wildcard game. The defining moments of Lewis’ career in Cincinnati are littered with injuries and lack of discipline. The 2016 Wildcard game against the Steelers sums this up to a tee. Andy Dalton got hurt at the end of the regular season which forced A.J. McCarron to start going into the playoffs. They drew a matchup with Pittsburgh in the Wildcard Round (of course) and had a one-point lead and the ball with less than two minutes to play. And in typical Bengals fashion, they blew it. With the help of a Jeremy Hill fumble and two reckless personal fouls from Adam “Pacman” Jones and Vontaze Burfict, the Bengals allowed the Steelers to drive and kick a game-winning field goal. The lack of discipline when it mattered the most was all too typical under Lewis. The results speak for themselves, Lewis never got the job done in the postseason.
The past few seasons have been major letdowns considering the core building blocks of the franchise are in their prime. In these years, Lewis’ behavior with the press and his attitude towards the team’s performance has been unprofessional, dispassionate, and disengaged. In postgame press conferences, Marvin has completely blown off and belittled members of the press for asking about the team’s struggles. “We just have to do better” is a phrase that all Cincinnatians have become far too familiar with. With his “pass the blame” attitude, Marvin has never been one to take the fall for the team. The head coach is ultimately responsible for how the team performs and Lewis refuses to accept that responsibility. Between the lack of success, discipline, and passion, it almost seemed like he took his job and the city for granted.
While Bengals fans can be thankful for Marvin bringing the team back to relevance, the lingering playoff losses and the current negative trajectory of the franchise gives a reason for Bengals fans everywhere to rejoice as the franchise turns a new page.