I'm not a big fan of letting coaches go. I think one of the biggest mistakes teams make is to fire a coach too quickly. I think there is a strong correlation between the Pittsburg Steelers having so much success over the years and the fact that they have stability at the coaching position.
However I believe the Bengals should let Marvin Lewis go now in the midst of this season.
I'm a huge fan of Marvin Lewis. He did a lot for this team, and made being a Bengal fan easier these last 8 years. I remember the joke that was the Bengals in the years leading up to his hiring. The Bengals were a joke, with the worst culture imaginable. I remember how in the 90’s it seemed that every year there were a series of insipid articles in the newspaper talking about all the things that players were doing to create a better atmosphere around the Bengals, only to see the team remain a bottom feeder during the following season.
I remember failure after failure in regards to coaches, draft picks, free agent acquisitions, and play on the field. I remember it all too well, and so I appreciate all that Marvin Lewis did to change that. He took a franchise that was the worst in the league and made them respectable. He took a team that was consistently described as the worst in all of professional sports, and gave them pride. The Bengals were no longer a gimme victory for opposing teams. They were a team that competed for the playoffs, and made people think that the Bengals could challenge for the top prize. The Bengals actually made the play-offs twice, which when Lewis was hired seemed an impossibility.
However I now think Marvin is a victim of his own success. By showing that this team could compete for a play-off spot every season, Marvin has built up expectations for this team among its fan base. Even though there were way too many seasons during Marvin's tenure where the Bengals went 8-8 or 7-9, he did have the Bengals competing to get in the play-offs. He built an expectation that the worst that any Bengal team should do is at least an 8-8 or 7-9 season. Looking at the schedule this team had at the beginning of the season, a 9-7 record was entirely possible, but I expected wins, and even in the losses I expected close tough fights. This we know did not happen.
Now after the second season of a complete collapse within a three year time span I no longer have patience, and I don’t believe much of Bengaldom has any either. As much as I love what Marvin Lewis did for the Bengals it is time to go in a new direction. While there are many things he has done well he has never been a really great game-time coach. There are way too many mistakes near the end of the half or in the final minute's of games that prove costly or prevent victories. There have been way too many points left on the field because the Bengals do not know how to properly manage the clock. There have been replay challenges to plays that should never have been challenged, and way too many times a play that should have been challenged was allowed to stand. The number of penalties that this team commits every season has to be laid at the feet of the coaches. There is a lack of discipline too often exhibited by this team.
The play calling for the Bengals was never really great, but has become worse as other teams have figured it out. There is little creativity, does little to take into account a players strength, and way too often tries to make a player fit the scheme instead of a scheme that fits the players. There also never seems to be any adjustment to counter the opposing team's. The second half for the Bengals has become a joke.
So we are now on the downward side of another lost season, and wondering what this team should do to prepare for next season. In 2008 there was some reason to hope at the end of that putrid season. A number of the losses the Bengals suffered could be explained away to the loss of Carson Palmer, and the team still seemed competitive. Then as the season wore on the defense and running game were began to show promise. Cedric Benson had literally come off the street to provide punch to an anemic offense, and Zimmer was shaping the defense into a team that could go toe-to-toe with the big boys of the division. All these things combined to give the Bengals hope that better times could be on the way.
A repeat this year is not in the offering, and even a three game winning streak at the end of this year would not offer much hope going into the next season. Palmer is just not the QB that he was a few years ago. I don’t know why, but he seems to not be able to see the field very well, throwing into triple coverage, while missing open receivers. Even if Zimmer can get the defense to play at a decent level for the remainder of this season, we have all seen that this is not a top five defense, and will not be until they can shore up the defensive line with a player that can put pressure on the opposing quarterback, and one who just dominates the inside of the line. And truth be told I fear any success for the Bengals now in these last few weeks. Not because I don't want the Bengals to win, but because it might be taken as a sign that the team should not replace the worst offensive coordinator in the league.
Still the Bengals need to do some things now, with the thought of next season and beyond being in the consideration. This is why I believe Marvin Lewis should be asked to step down. I do not want to fire him, but there are things that need to be done now that I don’t believe a lame duck coach can do.
First I would like to see how Zimmer would handle the in-game responsibilities of a head coach. As I stated, this was never Marvin’s strength; so let's see how Zimmer does calling a game for the remainder of the season.
Second this season is lost, let’s save the wear and tear on some players who will be needed next season and beyond. Football players only have so many hits in them, and then the wear and tear gets to be too much. Why keep pounding Benson (who is not having that great of a season) and instead let’s see what Bernard Scott can do with more touches, and offensive play calls that take into account his strengths instead of just plugging him into plays that were designed for Benson.
Carson Palmer is just not that good this year, why not sit him because of some of the injuries he has and give some game time experience to his brother, or better yet Dan LeFevour? Can our team be that much worse with those players? Let’s see what we have.
I want to see Chase Coffman, Chris Pressley, Anthony Collins, and Jerome Simpson on the field and see if any of these men have a future with the team. We know that TO and Ocho are not the future of this team’s receiving corps, so let’s find out what we have. While I was a big proponent of Quan Cosby, and wanted to see him succeed, he is really offering nothing to the Bengals this season, so let’s cut him and bring back Dezmon Briscoe off Tampa Bay’s development squad to see what he can do.
On defense, it is time to give the reins to Rey Maualuga, Keith Rivers, or Brandon Johnson. Dhani Jones was a great addition for this team, and he has been a model citizen, but his play on the field has been lacking. He is not the future of this team’s defense, so let’s give responsibility to some of the younger players. Let’s see more of Dan Skuta, Roddrick Muckleroy, and promote Vincent Rey to see what he can do.
This team is no longer playing for 2010, we are instead playing for 2011 now. Injuries have already started part of this process, so let’s just continue it in a more coordinated strategic way.
The Bengals need to let Marvin go, let Bratkowski go, elevate Mike Zimmer, and start to figure out what players they want to bring back for next season.
Of coarse Mike Brown would never do any of this.