Marvin Lewis has led the Cincinnati Bengals to six playoff berths in the last seven seasons, but not a single playoff victory has come of any of these appearances. Now, according to Bleacher Report's Jason Cole, Mike Brown is getting impatient.
Before going any further, I just want to point out that Cole's sources in his piece are undisclosed, which, at least to me, doesn't present enough evidence for me to entirely buy into this narrative. Previous reports from undisclosed players "within the Bengals locker room," such as the Tweet below, have been shot down by several Bengals players, including Andrew Whitworth, Adam Jones and others.
A #Bengals player tells me 55/24 behavior unchecked all year, he knew they would lose close game b/c guys blow it emotionally/situationally— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) January 10, 2016
So take the following with a grain of salt. With that, here's what Cole had to say on the matter:
Talking to multiple sources in and around the Cincinnati Bengals organization, [there's a] growing impatience by ownership, led by Mike Brown, about the future with coach Marvin Lewis. Lewis has been there for 14 years, and Mike Brown has been overwhelmingly happy with that tenure, especially when compared with the previous three coaches and a 20-year span in which the team did not make the playoffs and had an overall losing record. However, the big issue with Lewis is an obvious one: there have been no playoff victories for Lewis, and there's a growing feeling within the organization that this is as good a team as the Bengals have ever had...These teams compare very favorably to the ones that went to the Super Bowl in the past, and [they] should be performing at that level. Lewis fails to do that. We could see the end of the Marvin Lewis era in Cincinnati as soon as after this season upcoming.
Though Brown hasn't given Marvin Lewis his annual extension, yet, most people believe Lewis will still get that deal later on in the offseason. However, rumors like this will stir up the pot until the day Lewis inks his deal, and potentially up until the Bengals' next playoff game.
One of the many reasons people believe Brown and the Bengals' management have continued to stay loyal to Lewis is because of the organization's high emphasis on continuity within the players and team staff. Brown and his staff believe that if the Bengals are able to make the playoffs every year, they'll have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl. It's a sound thought process, as Lewis, despite what many Bengals fans believe, is one of the 10 best coaches in football. He took one of the worst teams in football and turned it into a perennial contender, which speaks both to the stability of the Bengals franchise and the impact of Lewis' coaching.
And ultimately, the Bengals' goal isn't to win a playoff game; it's to win a Super Bowl. Though they've yet to win a playoff game in five seasons, they've given themselves an opportunity to do so by making the playoffs in the first place. The narrative that the Bengals can't win a playoff game will loom, but the fact of the matter is that Cincinnati puts itself in a position to win every year, which speaks volumes of the team.
Fans might argue that they'd be happy with just a single playoff victory, but would they really feel that way? Prior to this year's playoffs, the Chiefs and Lions were tied for the longest losing streak in NFL playoff history, with seven losses apiece. The Chiefs topped the Texans in a statement victory, but they fell to the Patriots the following week. Would Chiefs fans consider that a success? Sure, the playoff losing streak is over, but watching your division rivals win the Super Bowl would be infuriating. A single playoff victory isn't enough for me, and I don't believe one playoff win would silence the Bengals' critics.
Take these rumors however you want, but I'm not buying them. I firmly believe Lewis gives the Bengals the best chance of winning a Super Bowl, because he puts his team in a position to make a Super Bowl run every year. I also believe that Mike Brown and the Bengals' management feel the same way about Lewis as I do. Sure, the 2015 Bengals may have been the most talented Bengals team in history, but it's hard to envision any team winning a Super Bowl with its backup quarterback.
Something that often goes overlooked is that 16 Bengals starters have missed at least one of the team's last five playoff games. On the other hand, the Broncos' Super Bowl team did not suffer a single season-ending injury during the regular season. (Ryan Clady was lost for the year, but the injury occurred early enough in the offseason for the team to prepare for his absence.)
To me, watching the Bengals continue to play hard and show heart through the season up until the final whistle of their Wild Card loss, despite losing their franchise quarterback, speaks volumes more of Lewis' coaching than the supposed rumors of the franchise's management being frustrated with him. Buy into the talk if you want to, but I'm willing to stick with Lewis until his teams no longer make the playoffs.