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Coach Talk: Marvin Lewis knows what you’re asking, but isn’t answering

The Bengals’ head coach avoids questions and gives vague answers one more time in 2016.

Cincinnati Bengals v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

With one final week to go, Marvin Lewis answered media questions regarding his future with the team, among other topics. So we take a look at what he said, and what he meant in his post-Texans, pre-Ravens press conference.

Lewis opening comments: ...The thing that killed us up there (in Baltimore on Nov. 27) was the turnovers. You can’t have that against this team. We want to possess the football...

Commentary: While you never want to have turnovers (obviously), the Bengals only turned the ball over two times. They had a -1 turnover margin with zero interceptions, and two lost fumbles. A team can overcome a pair of turnovers, as the Bengals did the following week against the Eagles. But what really hurt, and wasn’t mentioned, was Jeremy Hill only rushing for 21 yards on 12 carries, and Andy Dalton throwing the ball 48 times with barely half of his passes completed in that first game against the Ravens this season.

Question: Yesterday, Chris Cooley said that somebody he knew inside this organization said that you would retire at the end of the year. Do you have any thoughts on that report?

Lewis’ answer: You didn’t respond to it yesterday, so why would you today? It’s unfortunate that you can have somebody do something like that, I guess, and cause you guys work. So that’s unfortunate. ...if you want to talk about the Ravens, we can talk about that.

Commentary: When questions are ignored, instead of answered, they can easily lead to various conspiracies. By refusing to take the opportunity to squash the rumor of this game being his last one, he leaves the question open, allowing speculation to run its course.

  • Hey, government official, so are there really aliens in Area 51? ... There is no Area 51. Just ignore that sign out front.
  • Hey, government official, how do you explain the explosives residue in the World Trade Center debris? ... Um, we didn’t test for that. And we’ve quickly disposed of all the physical evidence.
  • Hey, Marvin, somebody said you might retire, what do you say? ... Hmm, that’s unfortunate. So how about those Ravens?

Question: So I would assume you’re not going to retire...

Lewis’ answer: Again, if you want to talk about the Ravens, we’ll talk about them.

Commentary: Again, Lewis fails to actually answer, or even address the question, allowing the speculation to continue until he is actually let go, or until next season begins and he is still coaching the Bengals. This tact of avoiding any off-field questions has been Lewis’ play all season long in his interviews. Even with on-field questions that involve player behavior, he tends to side-step.

On Thursday, Lewis went further, realizing the questions weren’t going to stop and told Sirius XM Radio, “I’ll be back in 2017.”

Question: Is that type of stuff frustrating for you?

Lewis’ answer: It’s not what I have to deal with. You seem to have to deal with it more than I do.

Commentary: There would be no reason for Lewis to be frustrated with it. It is likely that both him and Mike Brown know his future on the team, and it will be revealed soon enough. The story from Chris Cooley is obviously putting feet on a popular sentiment among the league, but I doubt Lewis really cares what speculation is being reported - either correct or erroneous.

Question: Last week, you said it was going to be too big of a risk to play A.J. Green, but he’s still on the active roster. Would an extra week help? Is there any way he plays this week?

Lewis’ answer: No, he’s not going to play this week.

Commentary: A.J. Green is the consummate Raven killer. Since Week 1 of 2014, Green has averaged over 135 receiving yards, and has scored a touchdown in each game against the Ravens. The Bengals are also undefeated, 4-0, in those games. Through the first 10 weeks of the NFL season, Green was on his way to his first All-Pro year, with 66 receptions and 964 yards in nine games.

Question: What about Vontaze Burfict? Is he still in the concussion protocol?

Lewis’ answer: He’s in the concussion protocol, yes. He’s progressing through it.

Commentary: Over the last three seasons, Burfict will have missed 22 out of 48 games due to concussions, various injuries, and suspensions. He is one of the elite linebackers in the NFL, but he seems to either be not playing, or getting in trouble with the league when he is playing.

Question: Given that this is the last game of the season, and that Baltimore doesn’t have playoff possibilities to play for either, how do you get your players honed in on one more game left to play?

Lewis’ answer: ...These are professional football players, and they’re judged on what they do, day in and day out. So that’s what counts for them and their career and their futures.

Commentary: With a surprising bit of relevant information in his reply, Lewis is spot-on with what he said. Every game is a job interview in the NFL, especially this late in the season as teams decide players to retain and who to move on from. Especially for players who hit free agency this offseason, every game matters.