What the hell does longtime Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis have to do get fired? The infamous “Black Monday” for NFL head coaches has come and gone, and, somehow, Marvin Lewis still has a job. And that’s absolutely inexplicable. Especially in today’s NFL, in which recently hired coaches are fired for going 9-7 a couple years in a row for God’s sake.
Lewis has set a high bar for coaching inadequacy in Cincinnati that may never be cleared. He’s been at the helm there since 2003 and has STILL not won a playoff game. In Lewis’s 14 seasons in the Queen City, the Bengals have gone 0-7 in playoff games and are a pathetic 9-28 in primetime games. Sure, the Bengals are a heck of a lot better now than they were for the entire decade before Lewis took over, but enough is enough. He has got to go.
Sure, Lewis is widely respected by his players and everyone else affiliated with the Bengals franchise. He’s classy, intelligent and well-liked. But the NFL is a cutthroat business. Why won’t Bengals management accept that? Good coaches have been fired for far less inadequacies than those that Lewis has displayed. I mean, the Dallas Cowboys even fired the great Tom Landry once upon a time. The San Francisco 49ers have fired first-year head coaches two years in a row now. Meanwhile, Lewis has had 14 years to make it to the second round of the playoffs and has yet to do so. He’s the only coach to ever go 0-7 to start off his postseason head coaching tenure. How many more chances is this guy going to get?
The Bengals have gone through two separate generations of players now since Lewis got the job. First, there was the Carson Palmer-Chad Johnson era in Cincy that resulted in a measly two AFC North titles and no playoff wins. Then, the Andy Dalton-A.J. Green era came into play, and the Bengals faltered for five straight years in the playoffs during that stretch. Of course, Dalton and Green are still going strong, but their window is closing.
After going 6-9-1 this season, a season that many NFL pundits were certain might finally see the Bengals make some noise in the postseason, Lewis managed to keep his job, and, on top of that, there have even been murmurs of a short-term contract extension for him on the horizon. Speaking of which, after the Bengals’ undisciplined playoff collapse against the Pittsburgh Steelers last season, Lewis had his contract extended through 2017 in what might have been the most undeserved contract extension in the history of sports.
For what it’s worth, 58-year-old Lewis has hinted around retirement over the course of the past year or so. Therefore, it seems somewhat likely that if the Bengals’ 2017 season doesn’t progress too smoothly, Lewis, who will then be out of a contract, will be able to walk away with his head held high by retiring. But don’t count on it.
Marv on his future: I'm not concerned about an extension.
— Geoff Hobson (@GeoffHobsonCin) January 2, 2017
The Bengals have a long history of underachieving, and, considering the high level of talent currently sported on the Cincinnati roster, one would think that Bengals management would be desperate to achieve as much as possible right now. A coach can only stay in one place too long before he loses the ability to make a positive impact. Even Bill Belichick will eventually walk away from the New England Patriots because that’s the way that the coaching profession works.
It honestly seems like the Bengals’ front office is letting Lewis skate for so long just because the Bengals aren’t exactly a big market team. Coaching a team located in a big sports market (such as the New York Giants, for example), as well as a team not necessarily located in a big sports market but with an esteemed winning pedigree (such as the Green Bay Packers, for example), comes with a much shorter leash. Since the Bengals meet neither of those criterion, Lewis is on a fairly lengthy leash, evidently.
Something has to give, however, because the Bengals’ window for winning is quickly closing, and it appears that a changing of the guard at the head coach position is the only thing that can slow that closing process down. Lewis has lost his touch (if he even had one in the first place) and, most significantly, can’t win a playoff game to save his life. Like NFL starting quarterbacks, NFL head coaches are graded, above all else, on playoff performance, and, in Lewis’s case, he is currently making a big, fat F.