There is a growing consensus that Marvin is getting more say in personnel decisions. I definitely agree and I think it is a very good thing.
The Bengals have historically been an "offense first" team that builds around a star QB and a feature RB and we usually rely on the draft to fill those spots. Of course, we have had Palmer locked in for a while, but we have diverged from the pattern with running backs. Typically, the Bengals spend an early draft pick (no later than the 4th round) on a running back about every third year, sometimes more often. We haven’t selected a running back in the first 5 rounds since Kenny Irons, who never saw the field in a regular season game (Bernard Scott is the only Bengal drafted RB, round 6). Instead we have chosen to sign journeymen and cast-offs, with just as much success. In recent drafts we have placed a greater emphasis on building the defense and the offensive line which is in sync with the change of philosophy. The Bengals have also shifted away from a “last one to score wins” approach to a “defense wins championships” approach. The former, although exciting, is definitely a Mike Brown “get butts in the seats” style, while I believe the latter to be the mark of Marvin Lewis.
With regards to free agent signings, Marvin’s style seems to be to sign guys who have played for winners, and therefore know how to win, rather than just looking for warm bodies that play the right position. The signings aren’t always the sexiest, but Lewis seems to place a high priority on veteran leadership, particularly on defense.
I am guessing the change may be related to the hiring of Zimmer. I think finally Lewis, with the backing of Zimmer have the huevos to stand up to MB, and MB seems to be listening.