Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has become a conundrum for fans.
On one hand, Lewis was the figurehead who brought excitement and respectability to professional football in Cincinnati. During the Age of Helplessness, the Lost Decade, the Bengals went 52-124 between the firing of Sam Wyche (after the 1991 season) and the hiring of Marvin Lewis (after the 2002 season). There were no playoff appearances and the best fans could hope for was a .500 record -- we got it once in 1996.
Lewis recently completed his 12th season as Cincinnati's head coach and in half of those, the Bengals qualified for the postseason -- including a string of four straight appearances and five out of the last six years. Since 2003, the Bengals have sent 31 players to the Pro Bowl -- only 10 went from '92 to '02.
On the other hand... no playoff wins.
It's weird how someone can receive so much scorn for what he's missed, rather than what he's accomplished. Growing up with the Bengals in the 90s, it seemed like a virtual impossibility that Cincinnati would qualify for the postseason with such ease. Of course, nostalgia doesn't win championships.
Alex Marvez with Fox Sports ranks Lewis as the No. 16 head coach in the NFL.
Lewis will always be remembered as the coach who helped lift the Bengals from NFL laughing stock to perennial playoff contender. However, the heat is on Lewis to help Cincinnati win its first postseason game since 1990. The Bengals are 0-6 under Lewis, including first-round losses in each of the past four seasons.
It doesn't matter that conquered teams in the divisional rounds go to the same observable hell that teams do when they lose in the wild card round -- if you're not winning a championship what do bragging rights of a postseason win get you?