CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 11: Head Coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals takes the field before the game against the Houston Texans at Paul Brown Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
It was dreary, like a gray cloud blotting out the sun and turning Bengals fans into the grumpiest people on Earth. Fans started avoiding Paul Brown Stadium on Sundays as if it were the place sick people go during an outbreak that leading scientists can't explain. The 2010 Cincinnati Bengals finished their season winning only four games, obliterating preseason expectations that had the Bengals making another appearance into the playoffs. Injuries on defense accumulated and the artist formerly believed to be the franchise quarterback, continued showing signs of regression into an average mediocre quarterback that experts still praise with beautiful technique. All the while Marvin Lewis' contract expired and now the Bengals were without a head coach.
And that was fine for some, who reflected on Lewis' career as the Bengals head coach and noting only two playoff appearances in eight seasons, culminating in zero postseason wins. Time for a change, some would argue. Others were simply indifferent, shrugging their shoulders caring less about the head coach situation. And others still worried, believing that Lewis was the best head coach that Cincinnati would reasonably acquire, further suggesting that there's no trust in Mike Brown as it is, how can there suddenly be trust for him to hire a head coach?
In the end Brown wanted to re-sign Marvin Lewis, who had already refused contract extensions throughout the 2010 season. Lewis reportedly wanted changes, ranging from extensive power in regards to his coaching staff, an improved personnel and scouting department and at the very least, an indoor practice facility. Lewis had the audacity to bring the Bengals out of the stone ages, turning the franchise into something more modern with computers, iPads and freshly washed towels.
Negotiations weren't so much public, but the public knew of the issues. Marvin Lewis told Peter King after the game that "It isn't only about whether the Bengals want me back, it's whether I want to return." Peter King, and many others, believed that Lewis and the Bengals were headed for a divorce. Reports began surfacing that the University of Pittsburgh placed Lewis on their short list of head coaching candidates. Lewis also made himself available to the head coaching search in San Francisco.
Reports began surfacing around lunch on January 4th that Lewis left the team's complex without a deal because the sides couldn't agree on a direction for the franchise. Apparently Lewis was on the side of "winning football games."
Several hours later the Bengals announced that Marvin Lewis signed a two-year contract, returning to Cincinnati for a ninth season.
Now the question became, what has changed?
Lewis has made coaching decisions, highlighted with the firing of Bob Bratkowski and hiring of Jay Gruden. Lewis and Gruden, who favored Andy Dalton during the 2011 NFL Draft, convinced Mike Brown out of his desire to draft Ryan Mallett. And now the Bengals will be able to use the University of Cincinnati's practice bubble when they need to this season. So it's not the team's personally-built practice facility, but it's compromise enough for the time being.
And through all of the changes that took place this year, implementing a new offensive coordinator, starting rookies at key positions while the NFL Lockout was in place, the Cincinnati Bengals head into week 17 at 9-6 with a chance to earn a playoff berth with a win on January 1, 2012. That's a fairly good job for a head coach deserved of coaching of the year consideration.