With the combination of Marvin Lewis coming into a contract year and the lackluster playoff performance this past January against the Texans, many are wondering whether Marvin Lewis is the right man to lead Cincinnati going into the future. Lewis is 0-3 in playoff appearances and in his nine seasons has a losing record of 69-74. Is this a good record for a nine year NFL head coach? Most would say that it is mediocre at best, but with the combination of Lewis inheriting one of the worst Bengals teams ever in 2003 (the Bengals were 12-33 under Dick LeBeau from 2000-2002) and coaching in one of, if not the, toughest divisions in the NFL, the stats might be a bit easier to swallow for most.
One person who definitely thinks Lewis is the right man for the job is Brian Billick. Bengals beat writer Joe Reedy writes that because Billick and Lewis worked together in Baltimore for three years, he knows more than the average person about Lewis' ability to lead a team and Billick thinks that, no matter what his record is, Lewis is the perfect fit in Cincinnati.
"Marvin is one of those coaches who has a keen eye for talent. All coaches think they do but very few do. Whether he wants to do it I don't know," Billick said. "His ability to adapt to the youth of the team by narrowing the focus of the top management. You've got have ownership/general manager and the player personnel guy with a shared vision. You don't always have to agree, you can disagree and dog cuss each other but you have to come out with a shared vision. I think Cincinnati is approaching that."
It is no secret that when head coaches come to Cincinnati, there is a certain level of power that they have to give up because of Mike Brown's control of the team as both its owner and functioning general manager. This was no different when Lewis showed up in 2003 and took the reins as the Bengals head coach. The difference between Lewis and all previous coaches since 1991 and Sam Wyche is that Lewis has slowly changed the mindset in Cincinnati and, as Billick said, has the same vision for this team as Mike Brown, and it is beginning to show with some of the personnel decisions that have been made in the last few years and the recent successes of the team.
Say what you will about Mike Brown and his rule over Cincinnati, but it is evident, especially after the 2011 draft, that he is relinquishing some of his decision-making power to Lewis and his coaching staff. This is no more evident than the trading of Carson Palmer to the Raiders this past October for first and conditional second round picks. This may seem like an easy trade decision for most Bengals fans, but we must take into account the Ochocinco debacle with the Washington Redskins in 2008 and Mike Brown's stubbornness when it comes to players demanding trades when considering how monumentally shocking this move was at the time.
Marvin Lewis, although he has had a few rough years during his time in Cincy, has taken a consistently 2-14 team and turned the team into a playoff team who is on the brink of becoming the team to beat in the AFC North. It may be physically painful for many Bengals fans to admit, but Mike Brown has been just as important to the Bengals' turnaround as Lewis.
This is merely a preliminary observation of where the relationship between Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis is at, but what we have seen lately is more promising than anything we've seen over the past 20 years. Only time will tell if the Bengals are actually on an upturn and will finally have back-to-back winning records, but one major test will come on April 26th and, personally, I cannot wait to see what Brown and Lewis can do when they roll up their sleeves for the Bengals' two first-round picks.