Remember back in January -- before Marvin Lewis signed his contract extension -- when everybody was speculating on what his demands were if he were to sign on again? There were rumors that a practice facility was in the mix, as well as more control over personnel and coaching decisions. And do you remember that ambiguous, murky, I'd-rather-get-punched-in-the-nuts-than-listen-to-this-drivel press conference where we all wondered if Lewis had simply caved into the Mike Brown way? At that conference, it appeared that Lewis was just looking for a job; he went over to the darkside, sold his soul and signed his extension while Brown tapped his own fingers (ala Monty Burns) and muttered "Muwahahaha" demonically in his dark tower.
It wasn't long though before things started to change.
First, there were coaching changes, starting with the ushering out of offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski and the ushering in of a new era with Jay Gruden. Then the WR coach Mike Shepperd left and the Bengals brought on James Urban to work with our young core of receivers. Then reports came out that the Bengals were conducting preliminary assessments on a new practice facility.
Then, there was the draft.If you want proof that something changed in Marvin's organizational status, look no further than the 2011 NFL draft. We are all well aware of Mike Brown's drafting tendency: talent before character. In fact, you could make an argument that character flaws were below every other evaluation category for Brown including: competitive eating ability, beer pong accuracy, widdling and competitive kite flying. As far as Brown was concerned, a player with character flaws was an added bonus for drafting a player because it meant that he could draft good talent at a cheap price.
Now let's look up and down the 2011 NFL Draft for a moment - and go over it with a fine toothed comb (as if we haven't done that enough already). Watch the interviews with AJ Green. What adjectives come to mind? Quiet. Humble. Hard-working. Family oriented. What does his old college coach Mark Richt have to say? "He’s the lowest maintenance guy I’ve ever been around who has that much ability, that much notoriety and that kind of celebrity"
On day two of the draft, there were two highly ranked QBs still available on the Bengals draft board: Andy Dalton and Ryan Mallett. Mallett would have been a classic Mike Brown pick -- great talent, with lots of character concerns that caused him to fall in the draft. But the Bengals opted for Dalton. Describing our new red-headed QB from TCU, we've used words like: Leader, competitor, winner and driven.
Dontay Moch? Hard-worker. Intelligent. Natural athlete. If we keep going down the list - Clint Boling, Robert Sands, Ryan Whalen, Korey Lindsey, Jay Finley -- there's hardly a character flag in the entire group.
And that's the way Marvin Lewis likes it.
I have absolutely zero definitive proof that Marvin Lewis got anything when signed his contract extension back in January. In fact, there's been no verbal acknowledgement of any change at all in the Bengals organizational structure. But look back on the last four months, and you'll see Lewis' fingerprints on everything.