When a team struggles, the powers that be decide a change is needed to change direction. Most of the time this usually occurs shortly after the disappointing season concludes, when the situation can be assessed and the proper decision can be made. This occurs most of the time. But suddenly, NFL teams are making coaching changes in the middle of the season, al la the NHL when teams will make a coaching anywhere from 4 games into the season or 3 weeks from the end in hopes that the team will respond. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. Currently, three mid-season changes have occurred in the NFL and two are already provided dividends.
The Cincinnati Bengals are no exception to conducting the mid season change as they made two during the continuing slide to the bottom (with the exception of 2005). In 1997, David Shula, you all remember him, started the season as the head coach but was relieved of his duties after the seventh week of the season, compiling a record of 1-6. His replacement was Bruce Coslett, who at one time prior to becoming the Bengals head coach, was the offensive coordinator for the Bengals last Super Bowl appearance. The Bengals responded by going 7-2 the remainder of the season finishing 8-8, making it the first non-sub .500 season since 1990 and sending excitement throughout Bengaldom.
But then futility set in and excitement was dashed as the following season the team finished 7-9 starting the decent back into oblivion. For the next 2 seasons, the Bengals compiled records of 3-13 (franchise worst, at that time) and 4-12. The 2000 season started with a dud, and Bruce Coslett finally resigned after starting the season 0-3, giving way to Dick LeBeau. Yes, the same Dick LeBeau who is currently the defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But unlike the 1996 season when Coslett took over, the team responded only minimally as they went 4-9 for the remainder of the season duplicating the 1999 season final result of 4-12.
Now this season’s version of those Bengals are coming upon the mid-season break known as the bye week following the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Could a mid-season coaching change occur then if the Bengals are winless? It would seem to be the most opportune time to allow for a smooth transition. But which coach should be removed?
Most of the time it is the head coach as he is ultimately responsible for the actions of the team. But is Marvin Lewis the right choice considering how the offense looks to be stale and vanilla. Could a change of offensive coordinator help the offense get going again? Or is a change of defensive coordinator the right choice due to the fact the defense can’t seem to play a complete game giving up late game touchdowns that seal the loss.
Mike Brown is one of the most loyal team owners in the league. He hates to fire anyone until things get so bad that he is forced into a change. So, the possibilities of such a change are unlikely since the current head coach holds the team’s best record since Sam Wyche. But precedence has been set, as discussed earlier. If Brown wants to bring respectability back to the Bengals franchise, a mid-season change is in order or this season could become a replica of the franchise worst of 2002, or dare I say even worse which could be a season of no wins at all.