Since the Cincinnati Bengals' inexplicable loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday, many have called Marvin Lewis' in-game coaching prowess into question once again. It's a fair observation really, given the amount of (dumb) penalties, turnovers and wasted timeouts. For all of the positive things that Lewis has done for The Queen City over the years, familiar frustrations bubbled up in The Windy City this weekend.
Last week, I talked about Lewis' poor opening weekend record as Bengals head coach, which has now reached a disappointing 4-7 record. There are plenty of measures to gauge an NFL head coach: wins, championships, and building dynasties. Other obscure measurements that some use are win-loss records in games coming off of extended planning time, i.e. openers and games after byes. In this respect, Lewis has not done well.
On Monday night, we saw two-time Super Bowl champion coach, Mike Shanahan fall to 15-5 on openers as Redskins head coach. Though Shanahan has his own downfalls as a head coach, you can't deny that win-loss record on such an important weekend for team morale and the direction of a season.
It's not so much the 4-7 record itself that should irk so many that are ardent followers of the franchise. It's the way in how the Bengals lose their openers. Three of the seven losses have been blowouts and there seems to be an overall air of a lack of preparation and focus. And to be fair to Lewis, this extends to the rest of his staff as well.
The wide receiver group and special-teams units need to be pointed at for the roller-coaster ride we saw on Sunday. If you knew anything about the Bears last season, you knew that their corners were turnover machines--both with forced fumbles and interceptions. The focus for the wide receiver group leading up to this game should have been ball security. Apparently that wasn't talked about in the film room. Apart from his amazing catches, we saw this become an issue for A.J. Green on Sunday, as well as for Mohamed Sanu, who had a late costly fumble. Depending on how you look at it, the wideouts could be held responsible for all three turnovers by the offense.
The special teams unit had two big penalties--one that negated a big punt return by Adam Jones and another that helped Chicago climb back into the game before the half. The latter was especially costly because it was after the whistle. Neither were the type that typify a disciplined team.
And, that should be the source of frustration from Week One. All offseason we have heard that this is a different team--one that exuded maturity and quiet confidence. Lewis built this team and trusted that he and his staff would not only have them ready to play, but that the players would respond by playing sound football. They didn't.
Hopefully a lesson was learned by the Bengals on Sunday. Pick the cliche you want: "Don't get full of yourself", or "We're not there yet". While the players need to digest that message, the coaches do as well. Bengals fans will have to get used to Lewis' woes on opening weekend--they will also have to hope that the staff does a much better job of preparing the team next week. An angry Steelers team comes to Paul Brown Stadium on Monday night to continue a brutal initial stretch of the schedule, and they won't be forgiving of these type of mistakes should they occur again.