Look, I love Dick LeBeau; think that he's one of those football characters that no fan can realistically dislike. Players love him, and he has a genuine love for the players and the game. Peter King, who notoriously bags the Bengals in favor of his arguments that puts them in a negative light, says of LeBeau's head coaching stint with Cincinnati, "I've had a long history with the Bengals, and I can tell you Vince Lombardi, with Bill Walsh and Bill Parcells as his coordinators, wouldn't have built a great team there."
Problem with King is that he rarely expands on his Cincinnati criticisms, using talking points of convicts, bad boys, or against Mike Brown. So you take that at face value, almost too much. However, the Bengals did put together a should have been "great team" (in my opinion) in 2005. They went 11-5 and were victim to an "unavoidable" hit that shredded Carson Palmer's knee on the second play of the game. It is my strong belief to this day that if Palmer plays the entire game, they beat the Steelers. Considering that the Steelers won the Super Bowl, it wouldn't be that much of a stretch to suggest they could have made the big game. That one play changed great to should have been great -- not that being all dreamy about something that didn't happen is a healthy mental exercise.
That 2005 team was Marvin Lewis' creation, using the same things that Dick LeBeau had. Again, I love Lebeau, think he should be in the Hall of Fame, but let's not over-stretch the free pass for a horrible head coaching stint. Brown is not a helpful owner, there's absolutely no doubt about that. But Lewis succeeded, at least for only one season, where LeBeau didn't. This is going to burn people that I say all this, and that's fine. There's truth that losing the Wild Card game doesn't allow one to call themselves great for that season. Not even the 2007 Patriots are considered great, losing their final game against the Giants in the Super Bowl. Merely forecasting alternatives, or perhaps falling into a reactive King piece. Who knows? Still, the Bengals were pretty good that season, and little changed from when LeBeau coached to when Lewis coached. Ironically enough, that same now applies at the opposite ends in 2008.