We lost a bit of humanity last week when the Bengals handed a playoff win to the evilest team in the world, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now that the tears had dried and I picked up my quinoa chips from all over my friend's (sorry, Sean) floor, I got to thinking: What happens from here? Marvin Lewis wasn't fired. Hue Jackson went to Cleveland. Secondary coach, Vance Joseph, escaped, and like rats fleeing a damned and sinking ship, Matt Burke (linebackers) followed Joseph to Miami and Jay Hayes (defensive line) left for Tampa Bay. Word is Mark Carrier is out, too and as other teams continue to fill out their coaching staffs it's possible the Bengals could lose more coaches this offseason.
What about next year, then? Are these coaches leaving because they know that next year the Bengals will get to the playoffs, lose in their first game and maybe at that point, Marvin Lewis will actually be fired, as will his supporting staff? While fans support a team out of loyalty and emotion, coaches support a team to make them them money. Their favorite team is the one that will keep them employed and let them rise up the ranks.
While Joseph is believed to be a rising star, if he eventually becomes the head coach of the Dolphins, Burke will be in good position for a promotion as well. Hayes, meanwhile, goes to a team with a future superstar, Jameis Winston, at the helm. And who knows how long new defensive coordinator Mike Smith will last in Tampa? After all, his last year coaching the Atlanta Falcons (2014), the team finished dead last in total defense. So there is the possibility Hayes could becomes defensive coordinator for a franchise on the rise down the line.
Meanwhile, in Cincinnati those coaches would have no such opportunities; even if Lewis stays onboard beyond 2016, neither Hayes nor Burke would have a shot at unseating Paul Guenther as defensive coordinator simply because the Bengals organization is ultra-conservative and loyal to a fault.
As fans, we try to convince ourselves that, after 25 years, change is going to come. These past few years in particular have been quite the tease. It's like being in a relationship with someone addicted to kettlecorn--we keep insisting, "He'll change... I know he will." No. He won't.
And neither will the Bengals, at least not with Lewis. Lewis is brilliant when it comes to the X's and O's. He's one of the best defensive minds ever, and he turns players from crap into gold. Adam Jones, lack of composure aside, blossomed into one of the best corners in the league in his ninth year. Reggie Nelson led the league in interceptions at age 32. But Lewis has one weakness that we've discussed before, and it's the weakness that has killed the Bengals in playoff games: He's a nurturing, forgiving, fatherly figure in a professional league that demands a more callous and demanding approach.
Lack of discipline killed the Bengals against the Steelers. Even if the calls against Vontaze Burfict and Jones were questionable, what about the fumble? Why couldn't Jeremy Hill do something so simple as hold the ball with two hands? My sister just had a baby, and she asked me to hold it. The whole time I had both my arms wrapped around that thing, and, you know what? I didn't drop that baby. These are the sorts of mistakes that coaches like Bill Belichick (whom I call "Belly-check") and Bruce Arians will coach out of their players. They run tight ships, and it pays off.
I love Marvin Lewis. I really do. He changed the Bengals team and the culture of the franchise. But the fact that all these coaches left has to be concerning. These decisions - especially ones to leave outright or leave for lateral moves with other teams - are carefully thought out. Now, the Bengals will boast a staff featuring many new names and we'll have to wait and see how the team's new coaches will be able to better their position groups and the Bengals as a whole.