The Bengals had quite the day on Sunday from a news prospective. A media bomb blew up early, and then the Bengals blew up against the Vikings. It created the perfect storm that people are still talking about.
The Biggest news from Sunday happened before the game when Adam Schefter reported that Marvin Lewis planned to leave the Bengals after the season:
After 15 seasons in Cincinnati that have made him the longest-tenured head coach in franchise history, Marvin Lewis is planning to leave the Bengals after this season to pursue opportunities elsewhere, league sources told ESPN.
As he has done in the past, Lewis willingly opted to enter 2017 on the final year of his contract, but unlike in other years, this time he is planning to leave Cincinnati, sources said.
This led to plenty of speculation from fans and writers alike, but it really wasn’t surprising to hear. It seemed like posting two losing seasons after the debacle against the Steelers in the 2015 playoffs was the final nail in the coffin. It is more just finally getting concrete news towards the finale of the Lewis era made it real to so many people.
The Bengals still had a game against the Vikings on Sunday, but the Bengals may have forgotten that considering the beating they took. The game also didn’t help the news of Lewis leaving go away as Geoff Hobson wrote:
Kicking the game off with a report that head coach Marvin Lewis isn’t coming back for a 16th season, his offense went nearly on track for its worst performance in his 15 seasons when the Bengals promptly fell behind the Vikings, 24-0, in the game’s first 25 minutes generating all of 35 yards, a first down, three sacks and five three-and-outs on seven possessions on the way to a 34-7 loss.
The din of U.S. Bank Stadium provided a brutal bookend to last week’s 33-7 loss to the Bears at Paul Brown Stadium, marking their biggest back-to-back losses and fewest points in consecutive games since the Carson Palmer-less year of 2008 and the 34-3 and 35-3 losses to the Ravens and Colts.
If the report didn’t open a can of worms, the game certainly did. It was the fifth time they failed to hit double-digits this season and they’re trending to score fewer points than the 2-14 Bengals in the 2002 season that gave rise to the Lewis Era. Their low under Lewis is 72 yards in a game they didn’t need to win, the 2009 finale against the Jets after they had already clinched the AFC North. They finished with 161 Sunday, one of the six worst outings since Lewis arrived in 2003. It was the third fewest in the Green-Dalton Era, two of them coming in the last six weeks with the 148 in Jacksonville.
The game was flat out embarrassing. It seemed most fans relied on focusing on the Lewis report to cope with such a terrible outing. Seriously though, those stats are down right awful. The Bengals have struggled to move the ball consistently all season long, and they showed up as the same old Bengals again this week.
The Bengals performance the last two and a half games have really driven home the idea that change is coming in a very big way this offseason.
James Rapien gives an interesting insight into what the Bengals could do immediately:
I would. Give Paul Guenther or Darrin Simmons a two week audition. https://t.co/UgqVScjymC— James Rapien (@JamesRapien) December 18, 2017
It is a very interesting idea, and it has very little downside if any. The only thing it does is tarnish Lewis’ legacy with the team a little bit during the Bengals’ 50th anniversary, but if the team is serious about promoting from within then why not see what these guys can do?
As far as promoting a head coach from within goes, two writers hashed out why we shouldn’t be overly concerned about that.
No #Bengals head coach since Tiger Johnson has been hired from within in a traditional offseason search. Coslet and LeBeau were mid-season replacements when there was no choice but to promote from within. https://t.co/xiiH6o521W— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) December 18, 2017
I think people’s concerns stem from the fact that since hiring Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden to come in and help turn around a struggling Bengals team, the team has only hired replacements for coordinators from within. That shouldn’t effect the Bengals’ head coaching search though. Especially if the team wants to avoid the status quo it has established.
After the game Lewis denied the reports, but the players were still effected. Katherine Terrell wrote how it seemed the players and Lewis had different stories about how the news was addressed:
It was clear the players didn't appear to be on the same page as Lewis, with some finding out the news on social media and others hearing it through word of mouth that quickly spread through the locker room.
Some players, like A.J. Green, said Lewis did not address the reports, while others said he did.
"He didn’t address it and he didn’t need to address it," Green told reporters after the game. "We all get paid to do our job, no matter what happens. My heart is in every play and we have to deal with the results."
Carlos Dunlap was one of those who found out on social media. Brandon LaFell found out from A.J. Green.
"I don’t think Marvin is that messy to say something like that before a game, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt," Dunlap told reporters. "No, he didn’t even address it. If you don’t feel guilty or have a guilty conscience, then why would you address it? It may or may not be true, but at the end of the day, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. I still had a football game to play."
This really highlights the circus that the Bengals were on Sunday. It seems like Lewis has lost the pulse of his team if he couldn’t even clearly straighten out one report before the game.
How there were players saying he didn’t and did do something is mind boggling. Players shouldn’t have to go through this, and fans shouldn’t have to watch a team go through this for two more weeks.
The only thing left is to look back at how we got to this point, and former Bengals PR director Jack Brennan wrote about when he thought the Bengals were done under Lewis. His answer is pretty interesting considering it comes from a man who knows Lewis as good as anyone:
The first sign of a fatal condition – the one you recognize only in hindsight – is 20-20 now for me. It was six years before the Pittsburgh debacle. It was the first-round playoff on Jan. 9, 2010 against the New York Jets. (That’s the 2009 season, of course.)
The Bengals were AFC North champions for the second time under Lewis, clearly on course as the club Lewis had rescued from the pits since arriving in 2003. The Jets were a 9-7 Wild Card team that had reached the playoffs via tiebreaker. The Bengals had Carson Palmer in the young prime of his career, while the Jets were quarterbacked by Mark Sanchez, ranked a journeyman both then and in posterity. The Bengals were proudly defending their home turf at Paul Brown Stadium. Their 41st straight sellout crowd was pumped, ready to cast away the demons from nineteen straight years without a playoff win and the 2005 season playoff game with the instant sucker-punch of a second-play Palmer knee injury.
One playoff victory – one totally achievable and expected playoff victory – might have prevented what we’re experiencing now, but New York won 24-14 and it wasn’t even interesting. The Jets shrugged off an early 7-0 deficit to lead 21-7 after three quarters. The Bengals finished with a sickly 110 net passing yards and kicker Shayne Graham crippled any nascent comeback hopes with FG chokes from 35 and 28 yards.
Anyone who remembers that game and that season knows how disappointing that game was. Brennan is right. Winning a single playoff game could’ve changed the entire atmosphere of this team.
The playoffs wouldn’t bring that same pressure like they have every single postseason since. Guys wouldn’t have to answer questions all year about finally winning a playoff game. It would all just be about finally being a good team and seeing how far they could go.
The lone bright side to the Bengals loss on Sunday is this:
Current #NFLdraft order post 4PM (no trades)— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) December 18, 2017
Having another top 10 pick to help bring in a good head coach could be nice. It could also provide plenty of hope for this team going into next season.
This team isn’t absent of talented players. They are absent of good coaching to really highlight and bring out the best of this bunch. A top 10 pick could help solve an issue at offensive tackle or linebacker very quickly for this team.