In the Bengals’ first 23 seasons, the team boasted a winning record of 171-168-1, with seven playoff appearances and a pair of Super Bowl appearances. After the young expansion team gained some experience, they only had six losing seasons in 19 years, compiling an impressive 152-132 mark during that era from 1972 to 1990.
But in 1991 that all changed. From the last year of Sam Wyche's tenure as head coach to the years of Dave Shula, Bruce Coslet and Dick LeBeau, the Bengals suffered through 11 losing seasons in 12 years, compiling a miserable 55-137 record in that span. In more than half of those seasons, they failed to win more than four games, and the team was horribly run in just about every aspect of the game.
In 2003, the Bengals brought in Marvin Lewis, and the proud franchise returned to their winning ways. Since that season, the Bengals have only had three losing seasons out of 13, and reached the playoffs seven times, including five in a row. The Drafts have gone from total jokes to very solid, and the Bengals have been transformed into a team that's among the best run organizations in the league.
This seems very positive, so why would we even pose the question of whether or not you would like to see Marvin Lewis remain as head coach after this season... or not? The answer comes in the form of the very large elephant in the room – the lack of a playoff victory.
Lewis has done a great job of transforming the culture of the team, and the regular season record has gone from horrid to very good, 112-94-2. But it is the 0-7 record in the postseason that has fans annually questioning whether it is time to bring in another head coach.
Granted, some of the playoff losses have been aided by very unfortunate events, such as a cheap shot on Carson Palmer on the team’s first offensive play in 2005 postseason, losing essentially every receiving weapon for the 2015 playoff game (A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert), and resorting to a backup running back (Rex Burkhead) and a receiver signed off the street (Greg Little) as primary receiving options, and then losing Andy Dalton late in the 2015 season, costing the team a potential playoff bye, and ultimately a close, painstaking loss with a backup quarterback under center.
While some of the playoff losses seem to have been dictated by a conjecture of misfortunate events, that doesn’t explain all seven losses, such as home upsets to very mediocre Jets and Chargers teams.
After 13 seasons, we pretty much know what we have with Marvin Lewis – a well-run team that is perennially good in the regular season, but fails to advance in the playoffs. With a new coach there would be much that is unknown, but one of those unknowns could be playoff advancement, assuming a new coach could get the team to that point.
So that raises the question, which would you rather? Marvin Lewis remain the coach of the Bengals until there's a reason beyond the playoffs for him to be fired? Or, have a new coach come in, figure out why the team keeps losing in the playoffs and help the Bengals to claim a victory in the postseason?