It's Thanksgiving, which celebrates the "Fs". A beautiful day that marries the reunion of family with old friends and the artistic combination of football and food. Our list of things to be thankful for could rival the size of a George R.R. Martin book without the questionable intrigue of manipulation, betrayal, and murder. My family for my neglectfulness for having two full-time jobs and using whatever free time remaining to sleep. My friends, who shy away from Bengals talk when I actually have the time to hang with the crew. But more locally, SB Nation for giving me a place in their expanding empire and everyone who reads these pages and comments on the stories to make it a home for everyone. This will be our eighth Thanksgiving at Cincy Jungle and our community is as strong as ever.
There is one Bengals-related note that I'm thankful for that hasn't been acknowledged (at least by me) in much detail.
I know it's a little cliche and over the past ten years, somewhat tired, but I'm still thankful that the Cincinnati Bengals hired Marvin Lewis on Jan. 15, 2003. There's no doubt that the seasons prior to his arrival gravitate feelings of over-appreciation, perhaps adding blanket forgiveness despite not winning a postseason game in four tries in ten years. But I remember 2002 and the years since Sam Wyche's firing (or resignation according to owner Mike Brown). Those years (previously dubbed The Age of Helplessism or the Lost Decade by others) were exponentially more frustrating than any playoff loss -- at least the journey of those seasons were exciting; the years prior to Lewis sucked... all year.
Within three years of a two-win season in 2002, Lewis had the Bengals in the postseason with one of the most potent offenses in the NFL. The steam eventually faded on that ride. Yet in 2009, the team returned to the postseason as the roster was rebuilt to be more defensive-minded, which has built into the juggernaut of what Cincinnati is today.
The peak of thankfulness wouldn't actually take reverence until the offseason between 2010 and 2011. Lewis' contract expired, many wanted him gone and Cincinnati was at a significant crossroads. Brown and Lewis spoke, deciding to extend the marriage while changing philosophies on personnel and slowly reducing the overall influence that Brown had on football operations.
Lewis wasn't just granted a fresh start. He was given more autonomy, wrote Dan Wetzel with Yahoo Sports!
"Things that we knew were true were proven in 2010 to be true," Lewis said. "If you do those things, you're going to get your butt whipped. And if you do these other things, you're gong to be successful. Unfortunately, we had to live the 2010 season to really get that imprinted on our foreheads."
He said he sat down immediately and began plotting out the revolution. Who would be in and who would be out. The Bengals have been drafting very good talent for years, now it would focus on character also. No more reaching for talent, Lewis said. He volunteered to coach the Senior Bowl that year to help get to know the prospects as people.
He absolutely had to have guys he could count on. This from a team that not only drafted the late Chris Henry, but re-signed him even after a slew of arrests.
Don't get me wrong. Having a postseason win under our collective belt will be satisfying, if not a justification for tremendous loyalty for an organization that demanded none. Records and postseason appearances aren't the only points of recognition: Rebuilding with core players that's the heard of leadership, the hiring of Mike Zimmer that's staged Cincinnati's defensive reformation, and as pointed out above, the reconfiguration of the influence from the front office.
Within my Bengals sphere, with the hiring of Lewis, events were set into motion that's created a core of sustained success that's already unfolding. And I'm thankful for that moment.
Everyone should be thankful for friends, family, their successes and everything else in their lives. But what are some of the Bengals-related things that you're thankful for?