Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis issued what amounted to be a challenge on Wednesday, demanding more from quarterback Andy Dalton and linebacker Rey Maualuga; the leaders of each respective unit. Paul Daugherty with the Cincinnati Enquirer, the perceived pessimist of pessimists, put it beautifully:
Marvin Lewis says Andy Dalton needs to be more of a jerk. Lewis didn’t exactly use the term "jerk," but this is a family publication, and you have an imagination. What he said rhymes with "sick," which is a decent enough description of the Bengals offense lately. You figure it out.
What Lewis said isn't so much surprising; they eerily echo many of the comments we've had all season. Marvin? Is that you? Are you reading the comments section again? What's more surprising is that he said it publicly; a tactic that can at the very least make a locker room uncomfortable.
Well, not this lockerroom.
Following Lewis' weekly Wednesday press conference, reporters repeated Lewis' comments to Dalton to get his reaction.
"We are leaders of our unit," Dalton said. "For Rey, he is the leader of the defense. I am the leader of the offense. So, it is a challenge for us. He believes in us. It's nothing that he is doubting us or anything like that."
"I don’t have any doubt that I've got everything that will please him in whatever was said," Dalton said after Wednesday's practice. "He's expecting a lot out of me and Rey and the leaders on this team. It wouldn't have been said if we weren't where we were. Maybe it’s the fire we need."
The best comment might have come from Maualuga, who says, "at the same time, it's nut-cutting time and it's time for us to step up." Alright then. Now that we got the male genitalia references out of the way, we can move on. Maualuga did offer that he knows he's the proverbial leader of the defense and it will only go as he goes.
"I've always felt I had Marvin's support and Zim's support with things that have been going on throughout the season. It's things that are very correctable," Maualuga said. "A quote that (Lewis) gave me … 'The rate of the pack is determined by the speed of the leader.'
"The quicker I get things going, the quicker I get things riled up, the more people buy into it. And the more we can get things going. I like the opportunity and the challenge."
In the end neither player took offense. Both admitted that they didn't care for ripping into their teammates, at least publicly, but recognize that Lewis' comments weren't designed to insult, rather motivate. Now they just have to show it. Or at least win games and this triviality fades.