As many Cincinnati fans may be aware, Marvin Lewis stepped out of his 10-year coaching persona on Wednesday to address his recently struggling team by sending a message to quarterback Andy Dalton and linebacker Rey Maualuga:
"We're looking for our quarterback and our middle linebacker to take hold of our football team," Lewis said. "I think both guys are such good people, that you got to be a little bit of a [jerk]."
As many other sports outlets have done, we've edited Marvin's quote. We'll go with "jerk," just as they have.
Lewis' words seem to echo what fans have endured for the past several weeks: Maualuga and recently Dalton have been under performing. There's no question that fans are disappointed, but the real question is: Where did this come from, Marvin?
Lewis has called out players before, but where was his public challenge when Carson Palmer wasn't getting things done after sweeping the division in 2009? When the 2009 AFC Champs entered the 2010 season, they remained largely intact, but they severely regressed with a 4-12 record. Was Marvin's fire simply contained in the locker room and not before the cameras?
Why now, Marvin? Fans and media alike watched him as he shrugged off pertinent questions in the face of defeat, giving cookie cutter answers which appeared to serve as an exit strategy off the podium. He even defended Rey Maualuga's perceived struggles in the face of the media. Why the quick turnaround?
Perhaps we should be picking our battles more wisely. It's not as if Marvin's words are unwelcome. Both Dalton and Maualuga have seemingly accepted Lewis' challenge, and it'd be a lie to say that I didn't sigh an exasperated "Thank you," upon hearing Lewis' comments. If we were to move on from the "Why now?" and look forward to the "Now what?" we may all be better off. It's too easy to get lost in hindsight with this team.
If we believe Marvin is bringing the right attitude, will his team leaders do the same? Some quarterbacks aren't built to be "jerks." Some middle linebackers simply don't have a "nasty" side. But Marvin Lewis has traditionally been a low key personality, and he just stepped up and called out his team leaders. Perhaps a tiger can change his stripes.