Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis completed his 11th season on Sunday, amassing a regular season record of 90-85-1 with a glaring 0-5 record in the playoffs. Lewis is part of this week's Terrible Trio of people that are taking a majority of blame for Cincinnati's 27-10 loss against the San Diego Chargers.
Five playoff appearances. Zero wins.
It's time for change.
It's a difficult perspective to chew on. The postseason record is significant, because it's the one step that Cincinnati has been unable to take into this fictitious belief that Cincinnati needs relevance -- despite the fact that they are one of six teams in the NFL (New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers, and New Orleans Saints) that have gone to the playoffs in four of the last five seasons.
Playoffs in four of the last five years. Zero playoff wins.
It's time for change.
Many are banging the reactionary drum three days after Cincinnati's loss, I tend to have the more cautious approach. Unlike some younger fans, we remember when Mike Brown and the family had total control of the team. Lewis has been the only coach that's imparted some modernization and delegation away from the family towards football minds. There will be a day when Katie Blackburn will take over, who is queued up as the franchise's next savior. But no one, and I mean no one, has the ear and respect of Mike Brown like Lewis does.
Having earned virtual control from the family and adding significant weight to requests for continued enhancement in the team, Lewis has done. Zero playoff wins.
It's time for change.
And when the Bengals had a 10-7 lead at half time, the feeling of control was mounting against a Chargers team that needed help through Cincinnati's miscues to reclaim a satisfactory outcome. Where was the defense, who gave up the lead on the first drive of the second half?
But at least the defense kept it close for them to win.
That's not good enough. This defense is the third-best unit in the NFL. It's statistically the best unit that Mike Zimmer has ever coached. This is the playoffs, son. Don't excuse it. If the offense is going to struggle, it's the burden of Cincinnati's defense to carry them. Not fair. Not cool. And they allowed the Chargers to go ten plays and 80 yards for a touchdown to take a lead? The defense allowed only five drives, all season, to go 80 yards. Then they gave up two drives against the Chargers in the playoffs.
Don't stop blaming people now. Zimmer is holy, but even deities have their flaws.
Of course, Andy Dalton three second-half turnovers is obviously on Lewis, because Lewis didn't implore Dalton to not turn it over. Giovani Bernard's fumble at the four-yard line and then A.J. Green drops passes like Snoop Dogg drops lyrics. What else? Who else can we give a free pass to?
It's time for a change.
Yes. It's time for this team's dependable defense to stop carrying water for the offense. It's time for the offense to catch the ball, block their defenders, and make accurate throws and protect the damned ball. These are fundamental issues that, believe or not, reflect the POSITION coach, not the head coach. If those issues continue, firing the head coach and leaving the position coaches adds zero reflection from the initial blame. About the only change that could happen from that perspective is that the new head coach would fire the position coach. And if you think that's a reasonable outcome (who wouldn't, after all), then recall in 2010 that one of Lewis' demands was that he had control over his coaching staff. He was granted it. Will the new head coach?
It's time for a change.
Throw out the number. Go ahead. Oh for five. Winless. We'll throw words like "motivation", "discipline", and "game management" as reasons that he should be fired. Where are the players, who are professional adults making a healthy living playing a profession that they've played over half their lives? Jermaine, you can't hold a defensive player and put the offense in a ten-yard hole. A.J., to catch the ball you have to fight for it. Andy, if you're going to fall, secure the ball.
If this is the argument, then fine. But now I'm freaking out about the players. You mean to tell me that a head coach has to install these very basic elements? You mean to tell me that 53 men in Cincinnati's locker room couldn't find it within themselves to win in the playoffs? At home? Against a team that controlled much earlier this year? Silly.
Yet, it's there.
Like a neon light in the middle of a street during a blackout six-blocks wide, it pulsates into the mind and stirs chemical reactions that concludes one consistent factor with five playoff losses and no wins.
But while banging the drum of decadence, ask yourself this.
Fire Lewis and then promote Mike Zimmer.
You've also removed Cincinnati's best defensive coordinator that they've had for years. Don't be fooled into thinking that Zimmer will call the defense. He won't have the time, while managing all aspects of the game. There's also the "Dick LeBeau" history. Yes. That's on me. I admit it. LeBeau, one of the great defensive minds in NFL history, was a horrendous head coach. Don't excuse it. His pressers had a deer in the headlight look. Oh boy, and Zimmer with the press after adversity? Talk about golden pass to Cincinnati's press room. Then again, Lewis came to Cincinnati with having one of the NFL's best all-time defenses in Baltimore. Clearly it does work, right? No. Fire him. Alright.
If the Bengals fire Marvin Lewis tomorrow. Fine. We look for answers. And we'll support it. My feet aren't buried in concrete as a supporter, but I'm also not the jack-hammer of hatred. If they hire Mike Zimmer, it's a great hire because there's no one else that really appeals -- how many other coordinators or head coaching candidates do you know that could deal with Mike Brown, and become successful coaches in the NFL? Will Brown even put up with Zimmer's blunt honesty?
How do you know if new coaches will or won't be successful if they're not given a shot? Fair point. It's a gamble with a cup full of quarters at the slots. Rolling the dice and playing chance is even a little thrilling, I have to admit. It could also crush everything. Take a risk. Be a man. Fine.
Lewis is a far greater diplomat and pushed enough change to develop a sustainable organization. It does worry me what happens when he goes. How much of his improvement would be corrupted by his departure? Is that even a good reason to support Lewis in the first place? No, it's not. It's just the reality of Cincinnati's organization -- and if you don't understand that, then you don't understand the Bengals.
I only caution this. Demanding change for the sake of making change doesn't equal progress; it's a mob's mentality to react with vocal dissatisfaction. I equally caution that, despite losing the game, if two players secured the football, the Bengals are playing the Patriots this weekend... not fans against each other.
Let's get the twitter bag:
@CincyJungle Stop making excuses. Focus on the issue that we all see. Lewis is a lousy playoff preparer. Enough said.— johnfromKY (@johnfromKY) January 7, 2014
I differ on this because I believed that at half time, Cincinnati was going to win the game. The offense was producing, stringing together 226 yards in the first half, converting 50 percent of their first downs and generating 13 first downs. Defensively, they held San Diego to 122 yards and 1-5 on third downs.
If one dictates a week's worth of preparation, then look at the first half. It was working. It just blew up in the second half.
@CincyJungle who is accountable for adjustments? Ultimately its the head coach. He is accountable especially if he has the say in personnel— riceman (@jtownhunk) January 7, 2014
Call it a philosophical difference. then. I'm under the belief that "adjustments" is mostly the mandate of that unit's specific coordinator. Suddenly applying that to the head coach is stretching a belief that satisfies the demand, real or imaginary. Maybe Lewis isn't involved enough? Maybe he's not getting on his coordinators? But then, we're not in the locker room, how can we possibly produce evidence of this one way or the other?
@CincyJungle I respect what Marvin has done for the franchise..but 0-5 and constantly making excuses for Dalton is unacceptable— Doc McCoy (@robbie_doc_rob) January 7, 2014
The Dalton quotes, while expected from the conservative nature of a coach protecting his player, was a little frustrating. And this is a knock on Lewis for me, because he said that you can have an awful postseason game, turn it over three times, and be completely safe. That sets a bad precedence. Maybe that's the argument against Lewis too? Hum.
@CincyJungle If Jay leaves you think Hue becomes OC?— Josh Tolle (@whodeyJT) January 7, 2014
Jackson is the team's top in-house candidate to become the next offensive coordinator, if Jay Gruden leaves for a head coaching job. He's universally loved by his colleagues and players (just watch Hard Knocks) and has a history of being an offensive coordinator.
Granted, his offenses ranked 23rd in 2003 and 2007, but he was dealing with personnel issues in Washington and Atlanta. His offense ranked tenth in 2010 when he was a coordinator in Oakland, and ninth as the head coach.
However, I'd like to see what he could do.
That being said, IMHO, no extensions for Lewis or Dalton this offseason. Both are entering contract year. No playoff win, no contracts.— Josh Kirkendall (@CincyJungle) January 7, 2014
Well said. And you're looking especially dashing.