The first question I've been asking the past two days, is this: Is Marvin Lewis done? Has he lost his players?
The logic in thought, the impromptu Ringling Bros. show, the questionable field effort with disastrous results, tread on a path that's again, all too familiar. Coaches. Players. In Cincinnati, after a period of time, coaches and players turn to oil and water. Different? This time? Is this a fabrication of finding something or someone to blame for being 1-4? Is there such a reaction against the coach, while continuously giving breaks to players with fate's cruel intentions of long-serving injury, that the disruption in commonality with the black hole of universal stability being far too gone to save?
The head coach is solely responsible for his team's actions and performance. True. That argument is valid. But the head coach isn't throwing the football to a wide receiver that we keep hearing is running the wrong routes -- mostly heard on interceptions. There's little the head coach can do when the NFL Chancellor hands the team's middle linebacker, the defense's future leader (the Ray Lewis type Marvin covets), a 32-game suspension because he likes the sauce. It would have been more logical if Odell Thurman didn't drink but stored a weapon's cache for the original Minutemen. There's little the head coach can do when future linebacker and leader #2 still remains unsure if he'll play football again after sustaining a neck injury. There's little the head coach can do when the starting right tackle, starting left tackle, starting center and starting left guard all go down to injury or are forced to play out of position because of injuries sustained by others. There's little the coach can do when two running backs taken in the first and second rounds in their respective drafts are either injury prone or living with shredded ligaments in the knee. There's little the head coach can do when his own draft picks are arrested taking 10 months for the Chancellor to make up his mind on the consequence while he lets thugs like Joey Porter walk free.
(Side Note: Alex Marvez asks, "Know why Joey Porter hasn't made an impact with Miami?" He quips, "He needs help from three others to beat a left tackle." Classic!)
There's mediocre head coaches that fail to ever produce a winner. There's good head coaches that produce winners, but also losers. There's great head coaches that systematically break the opposition's will. Then there's legendary. The best of the best. The guys you mention when comparisons of modern coaches are made. Where does Marvin Lewis stand? Did we ever really claim that he was the latter two? He did produce a winner. One in four seasons. He's yet to produce a loser (no seasons with more losses than wins). Let's also keep t his in mind. This is his fifth season as a head coach. Not just Bengals head coach. A head coach at all. His experiences now dictate his future -- how he deals with situations later -- like anyone living life by trial and error. Will the lessons learned be applied with the Bengals? Not seemingly right now. Especially in the age that you MUST make changes, no matter how foolish and over-reactionary they are, so you appear to make changes. Personally, I can't wait for Mike Brown to have all of his wonderful influence on deciding the next head coach. I never had enough of Dick LeBeau, Bruce Coslett or Dave Shula. We used to be a patient crowd, Bengals fans. No more. We need someone new. Credentials? Doesn't matter. Now the debate heats up.
For those of you apart of the players arrested so let's blame Marvin crowd, consider that the following players/coaches that have been either arrested or charged with something since, get this, July! Several coming from the same team.
- Najeh Davenport -- domestic violence, endangering children and unlawful restraint
- Nick Barnett -- two counts of disorderly conduct
- Lance Brings -- leaving the scene of an accident
- Khalif Barnes -- leaving the scene of an accident
- Michael Vick -- self-explanatory
- Chuck Cecil -- DUI
- Leigh Bodden -- aggravated disorderly conduct and resisting arrest
- David Boston -- DUI
- Fred Evans -- resisting arrest with violence and battery on a police officer
- Anthony Hargrove -- harassment, criminal mischief and resisting arrest
- Kelly Campbell -- felony marijuana possession, felony Ecstasy possession, and a misdemeanor charge of providing false information to a police officer
- Jeremy Bridges -- assault
- Jimmy Williams -- marijuana possession
- Cris Chambers -- impaired, reckless driving, and speeding
- Khalif Barnes -- DUI
- Anthony Waters -- assault and battery
- Bryant McNeal -- fraud against a pawn broker, and misdemeanor fraudulent check writing.
Players being arrested is hardly exclusive to the Bengals. And if you take Chris Henry out of the equation, the Bengals aren't filled with felonous suspects. It's just funny because the Bengals exclusively wear stripes on their uniforms.
Do we lack exporting perdition? Did the theory of Lewis losing his team come from this season? Was it an accumulation? Is the topic specifically generated by the fans and media? Have the players spoken out about it? Do you get that feeling or are you simply watching Chad be Chad on the sidelines with Palmer being restrained by Reggie Kelly because the pass was intercepted? Furthermore, has Carson Palmer lost his team? That's ridiculous. Really? Consider he rehashes the same tired excuses for the team's failures, the same "must do better" responses and always accepting blame for his teammate's failures, never grilling them for screwing up. Except, incidently, Chad.
All this is obviously speculation that's being generated with a 1-4 team. That's happened since the dawn of sports and will die at the conclusion of modern civilization. But it's speculation that all fans, Bengals or other, have a right to speak on.
Let's consider however, that other than the outburst from an incredibly emotional player -- the same player that caused a ruckus during half-time in the 2005 wild card game, yet Lewis wasn't thought of having lost his team -- the tirade in the lockerroom following an embarrassing loss to arguably the best team in the NFL, there's been little to substantiate that Lewis has lost his team. Carson too. The Bengals are 1-4 and seem chaotic, therefore it's a reasonable conclusion that the head coach lost his team. But a reasonable conclusion is far from an accepted truth. Far from substantiation.
I know that I'm sounding like an apologist for Lewis. And I'm really not. I just think that full examination should be discussed before throwing the head coach under the bus. After all, if it's learned that Lewis is in fact, not the issue, then we'll be stuck with rebuilding another era of the organization with another head coach that has to be decided via the Brown family. And that can be painstaking longer -- like 12 years longer -- than simply weaving out the bad apples.
I got several responses asking if Lewis has worn out his welcome.
Mike says: "I believe Marvin has worn it out. He can't keep control of the players on the sidelines. He makes some seriously (screwed) up challenges. I think it's time to move on."
Dave says: "I think everyone knew that if the Bengals stumbled this season, the 'In Marvin We Trust' era was over. I don't know if that means firing him is the answer, but any immunity he had to being questioned is gone."
Dave continues with the best analysis of Chad Johnson I've seen yet. "Chad's a distraction, but complaining about Chad is like complaining about your windshield wipers when you have four flat tires, a hole in your gas tank and your engine just threw a rod."
Mike #2 says: "Lewis is fine. The team is bad right now and we're finding anyone to point fingers at."
But isn't the team reflective of the head coach?
Mike #2 continues: "Not as much as we like believe. The coach acquires the players he's allowed to acquire. He leads the team's philosophy (which has worked) and allows his coaches to come up with the schemes. The players still have to perform and there's no reason why they're (really) horrible."
Gregory: "I predict he's gone after this year."
Jake: "He'll either resign or be fired."
Even my father -- hardcore Packers fan, but Vikings fan (loosely) too -- chimed in on this one who makes a fantastic analysis in that Lewis' ability to suddenly turn the franchise around was good. "He was good for the sprint, but not the marathon."
I'll guarantee two things. That if players start bickering publicly -- ala Levi Jones -- about the coaches, then the firestorm's velocity will rage out of control. However, if the team starts winning, then this whole discussion will be all for naught. Well, until they go on another losing streak. The scary part is that if you take out 2005, Lewis resume suddenly becomes far less impressive.
What are others saying about the Bengals right now?
MJD says, "Say what you want about the Bengals. Call them underachievers, call them selfish, call them losers ... but few teams in the NFL do more for the self-esteem of opposing running backs. They're givers, these Bengals ... if the entire world was made of running backs, the Cincinnati Bengals would be the United Way."
Arrowhead pride (Chiefs blog) says, "We're still looking good in the surprisingly mediocre AFC West though. It could be worse. We could be...the Bengals."
Ryan Wilson says, "The Bengals, on the other hand, learned nothing from their bye week -- other than they're not a very good team -- and are another blowout or two away from a full-on implosion."
Brad Johansen: "Bottom line: this is not a very good football team. I didn't want to believe it but they've made me. Because too many on this team believe it. You can see it during the week, you can see it on the field, you can see it on the sidelines with players screaming at coaches, you can see it after the game."
Clifton Brown says of Lewis: " He has changed a losing culture but is in a make-or-break year and needs to instill more discipline." Brown also labels Lewis as one of five coaches on the hot seat. "There were high expectations in Cincinnati, but discipline problems and a poor defense have put his leadership in question."
Speaking of Arrowhead Pride, Chris joined me for some post game discussion.
|Chris (Arrowhead Pride)
|The Game was over when...
I thought two series of events happened that all but labeled the game over. With just under two minutes left in the first half, the Bengals go three-and-out and only consume 30 seconds off the clock enabling the Chiefs to kick a field goal to close the half. The second, the Bengals come out firing duds in route to another three-and-out possession. If circumstances change, the Bengals could have built momentum off that.
|With eight and half minutes to go in the 3rd quarter, the Bengals went for it on fourth down and short and were stuffed. It screamed of desperation going for it on 4th down so early in the second half. I wouldn't say the game was sealed until Bernard Pollard picked off Carson Palmer's pass in the 4th quarter.
|The Chiefs offense was...
Did what most opposing offenses do. Impose their will on the Bengals defense. Larry Johnson's first half was as close to a typical half (either first or second) with most we've faced this year.
The passing game over the middle, specifically anything to Tony Gonzalez, was wide open. With that in mind, the Bengals choose to put a defensive end at outside linebacker to cover a hall of fame touchdown record-holding tight end. I wouldn't even do that in Madden, much less real life.
|Fantastic in the first half, typical in the second half. Larry Johnson rushed for 106 yards in the first half and only 13 in the second half. In almost every game this year, the Chiefs have had one successful half of football and one dismal half of football. Until last Sunday, the Chiefs had excelled in the second half of games. We were lucky enough to play well in the first half, build a lead and force the Bengals to pass the ball against a Chiefs defense that was stingier against the pass than I expected. Except for those two T.J. Houshmandzadeh touchdown catches of course.
|The Bengals offense was...
|Stale, stale, stale. The running game was abandoned early -- as per usual during losses like this. Palmer was gaining some momentum in the second half. But that last pick was too costly -- in terms of the results and the psyche of this team -- for this team to overcome.
|Held in check. This is one of those games that proves that a good defense is superior to a good offense. I know how you Bengal fans feel though. You're practically the 2003 Chiefs. Putting up 35 points a game is great. Letting every opponent you play have the potential to put up 40 isn't much fun though.
To GM or NOT to GM.
Len Pasquarelli had this little nugget in his tip sheet.
Outside of signing a big-time veteran free agent to help the defense, there aren't many things ownership hasn't provided Lewis over the past few seasons. As for that big-time defensive addition, well, the guy Lewis really wanted to sign this spring was linebacker Joey Porter after Pittsburgh released him. Given the number of injuries the Bengals have absorbed at linebacker this year, Porter might have helped. But it's not like the loquacious Porter has made any game-altering plays in Miami, which overspent to sign him as a free agent.