After the Bengals went 10-6 in 2009 and making the playoffs, there was plenty of justification as to the high level of expectations that was rampant in Cincinnati. When you consider that the team was bringing back virtually every starter on offense and defense, it was a good start for a sunny disposition. One of Cincinnati's biggest concerns after 2009 was their passing game. The front office addressed that, signing Antonio Bryant, who was later released by the team due to an unhealthy knee and Terrell Owens to replace him. Furthermore, in between the veteran free agent signings, Cincinnati drafted a pass-catching tight end in Jermaine Gresham and a solid slot receiver in Jordan Shipley. So it's not unreasonable to say that expectations for the Bengals in 2009 was brimming over the edges with awesome spirits from fans, the media, the players, the coaches and unquestionably the front office.
Now that the Bengals are 2-7, after Sunday's loss to the Indianapolis Colts, there's going to be a certain level of blame during the offseason this year. Of course, you can say the Bengals front office is the problem until you're blue in the face, but you know that's not going to change any time soon. And when expectations of big-time success drops off the cliff like a busted tire at Daytona, the axe typically falls on the head coach.
Marvin Lewis is perhaps coaching his final year as the Bengals head coach with an expiring contract after this season and reportedly no known contract discussions for an extension. It's quite possible that a 2-7 start and the Bengals likely (read: totally) out of the playoffs, the Brown family will want to maximize whatever opportunity they have left with this core of players. And they could view that starting with Lewis' departure.
Peter King, when asked what happens with Carolina's head coaching situation next year, suggests that John Fox will be a possible head coaching candidate in Cincinnati if the Bengals aren't able to agree to terms with Marvin Lewis. Fox, who has typically favored a defensive team with a strong rushing offense, is in the ninth year as the Panthers' head coach with a 72-64 record, three 11-win-plus seasons and, before this season's 1-7 start, never having a season where he finished two games below .500.