Should the Bengals fire Marvin Lewis at the end of the season? Heck, why not just do it now? We have three "qualified" assistants on the team that seem like they would be capable replacements for Lewis. If we were to poll Bengals fans at this very moment, a good chunk would likely say that axing Lewis after nine and a half seasons would be a smart move right now. The only problem is that firing Marvin now or even after the season would be an overreaction. Let me explain why.
First of all, does anyone honestly think that Mike Brown will fire Lewis after giving him a two year extension prior to the preseason? If there is anyone that seems to like Marvin as much as Mike Brown, I have yet to see them. After giving Lewis the extension in late July, this is what Brown had to say:
"Coming off a playoff finish last year, with a solid coaching staff and good young players, continuity at the top gives us our best chance to do well," said Bengals president Mike Brown in a statement. "We are excited about the team’s prospects and happy to have completed this process with Marvin before the 2012 preseason schedule begins."
Mike Brown has never been more right in his life. The Bengals have a solid coaching staff as it currently stands. There may be a few wrinkles that need to be fixed, but still a great staff overall. If Marvin Lewis leaves, you might as well say goodbye to Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden too. Zimmer and Gruden have not had the best year so far in 2012, but they are definitely worth keeping. If say, Andy Reid rolls in to Cincinnati next season, he is undoubtedly bringing his own guys to man the staff. The only exception is that receiver coach James Urban would likely stay, but that is only because he was formerly employed in Philadelphia under Reid. Some may say that Zimmer, Gruden, or even Hue Jackson could step up to head coach in Lewis' exit. Would that change really help the Bengals going forward? Continuity is what is important here. Has Marvin worn out his welcome? I think he is just getting started.
I personally think that Marvin Lewis has a solid plan for this franchise. Is his plan going into effect this season? It does not appear so, but 2013 looks a lot more promising and we could see this plan truly blossom that year. Brown and Lewis were able to get two high picks for Carson Palmer, who did not want to be in Cincinnati. Hue Jackson may have just handed the Bengals picks, but I am guessing that Lewis helped convince Brown to take the deal. Now we can debate the selection of Dre Kirkpatrick all we want, but there is no denying that it was beneficial for the Bengals to get that extra first round pick.
Let's also not forget that Cincinnati has two second round picks in the coming draft of 2013. This draft appears to have some solid defensive ends and safeties, two positions that the Bengals would like to upgrade and bolster. The main point is that without Marvin Lewis, there is a good chance the Palmer deal does not happen. Lewis gaining any control from Brown is a major win in itself--most of us have heard the story that Brown wanted Ryan Mallet in the 2011 draft, while Lewis and Gruden wanted Andy Dalton. Lewis won that one, for better or worse, and right now, it looks to be for the better.
There is no denying that Marvin Lewis still has a long way to go when it comes to gaining more power from Brown. An indoor practice facility would be phenomenal. But as a Bengal fan, I have to like how far that the franchise has come in the ten years that Lewis has been here. Is he a great head coach? His track record would suggest that he has his shortcomings, but he is one of the best coaches that this franchise has had. True, I often find myself wanting to dismantle my roommate's television when Lewis throws the challenge flag in situations where it is obvious that he will cost the team a timeout and he does not seem to be a great in-game coach. The other teams' head coach often adjusts quicker than Marvin does. While he has his negatives, I think Lewis is the correct coach for this franchise going forward.
Three playoff appearances in nine seasons is not spectacular, but it is much better than Bengals fans of the 20th and 21st centuries were/are accustomed to. Cincinnati has had some great teams in the Marvin Lewis era. Maybe great would be too big of a word for some, but they have certainly fielded some fun teams to watch. The 2005 season is probably the most fun I personally have ever had watching the Bengals. Many still think that Cincinnati would have had a Super Bowl team if Carson Palmer would not have gotten hurt in that heartbreaking playoff game against the Steelers. In 2006, the Bengals started off at 4-5 and would have made the playoffs if it were not for a missed extra point in Denver on Christmas Eve, or a Santonio Holmes' overtime TD reception on New Years day. We all would have been looking at a Bengals squad who would have gone to back-to-back playoff appearances.
The 2009 squad was my personal favorite Bengals team for a variety of reasons. That team had the most heart I have ever seen from a Bengals team. They came from behind and beat many good teams in surprising fashion. The death of Chris Henry and another early playoff exit was heartbreaking and disappointing, respectively. But everyone will remember going 6-0 in the division that season. One season a team goes 4-12, the next season they are a playoff team. It may even be too early to look to next season. The 2011 season brought us astonishment, as two rookie players and a rookie offensive coordinator led Cincinnati to another playoff birth. A tough game in Houston brought anger, but we also the feeling that better times were ahead for this young team and they were just scratching the surface of their potential.
Much like President Barack Obama says in his campaign ads, it is too late to turn back now and reminiscing on these squads and the hills and valleys of emotions that fans have endured during the Marvin Lewis era is futile. While things may look bleak at the moment, remember that football is a funny game and keep the "any given Sunday" adage close. One season a team goes 4-12, the next season they are a playoff team. It may even be too early to look to next season. Currently on a three game skid, you have to remember that the team was riding a three-game winning streak a few short weeks ago. There is still over a half of a season of football left.
The Bengals have had their troubles over the years and have lost games in fluky ways. At some point, it will be Cincinnati's time. And when it is our time, my gut tells me that it will be Marvin Lewis leading the way and it will be in the very near future. So, Mike Brown and Bengals fans, practice patience for now. I have a funny feeling that even more good seasons are in store for this team soon.