They say when a couple gets married, those once cute differences between the couple can quickly turn to annoying habits, now that they are husband and wife. And so it is with sports too.
When the Cincinnati Bengals were in their recent five-year playoff run from 2011 to 2015 with Marvin Lewis as the team’s head coach, most fans were contented with him despite his shortcomings.
But now that they are facing their second consecutive losing season, following last year’s 6-9-1 record, those struggles that he has as a head coach become much more magnified as fans resume the calls to oust him from the coaching role he’s held for a decade and a half.
So what are some of the good things that Lewis has done as the head coach? The most notable one is that he turned around the franchise from one that was perpetually horrible, with no winning record for a decade, to one that was good.
Only four of his 14 seasons have ended with a losing record, and that has happened only once since 2010. He has also done this despite having one hand tied behind his back, of sorts. The Bengals typically avoid making a splash in free agency, instead using the first few weeks of free agency to watch some of their best players leave the organization without replacing them.
One has to admit that continually putting up winning records without the aid of outside free agent acquisitions is a good accomplishment and speaks to the relative success of the team’s drafting.
But last year the Bengals had a losing record and they are on pace to continue that again this season. As such, Lewis’ failings as a manager have been more readily brought to the spotlight.
Some of these include his disbelief in halftime adjustments to counter what the opposition is doing, and his fear of using rookies. His insistence on playing struggling veterans over better, younger players has hurt the team time and time again. The once popular “player’s coach” has seemingly losing control of the team, as evidenced when both A.J. Green and Joe Mixon publicly complained about the state of the offense, and Jeremy Hill opted for surgery rather than play for the Bengals in the second half of the 2017 season.
Finally, his lack of success against good opponents, in primetime games, or in meaningful games to secure playoff byes and victories has been a continued theme during his tenure as head coach. Consider the Bengals are only 1-5 this season against teams with winning records, after last season’s abysmal 1-7-1 mark against winning teams. Even in their great 2015 season, they only went 3-5 against teams who had a winning record, including an 0-5 mark down the stretch as they battled for an important first-round bye.
So, let’s take a look at what we could consider the minimum threshold that it would take for Marvin Lewis to return as the team’s head coach beyond this current season.
Win the Super Bowl: You can’t go and fire a coach who just won you the Super Bowl, can you? I think if the Bengals won the Super Bowl in this 50th anniversary season, Lewis would pretty much have job security for as long as Mike Brown lives.
Make a deep playoff run: A deep playoff run would be an amazing rebound from an awful 0-3 seasonal start, and is what every team is hoping for. If the Bengals were to make a deep playoff run, it would seem that Lewis job is safe, since they haven’t made a deep run into the playoffs since the Ronald Reagan presidency.
Win a single playoff game: This is something that Lewis has failed to do as the Bengals head coach, going 0-7 in such opportunities. In fact, a playoff victory is not something the Bengals have seen since the 1990 season. Obviously finally overcoming this hurdle would be an accomplishment, but have Bengals fans set their expectations so low that a single playoff victory in his 15 seasons as the head coach be enough to extend his employment?
Reach the playoffs: After an 0-3 and 3-6 start, to reach the playoffs would be quite a turnaround. It would essentially mean that the team finished on a 7-0, or a 6-1 run, winning a bunch of must-win games. But would merely reaching the playoffs be enough? It would represent the sixth time in seven seasons that the Bengals have accomplished this.
But if it’s not followed by a playoff victory, isn’t that just more of the same from Lewis? Also, a playoff appearance this season is more a reflection of how poor the rest of the AFC has been, as a 9-7 season seems to be the target for a playoff team this season.
Finish strong, but miss the playoffs: This would show that the team was able to rebound from 3-6 to a record around 0.500. But isn’t this just repeating the theme of Lewis’ teams failing to win when it matters, but winning meaningless games when there is nothing on the line? It’s what they did in 2008 and 2010, after starting those two seasons a combined 3-22-1 after 13 games, they finished 5-1 in their final 3 games of those two seasons.
It would be a repeat of last season when they started 3-7-1 before finishing with a winning record after they had been knocked out of the playoffs - winning too few games to be relevant, but too many games to reap a high draft pick.
Nothing will save his job. He is gone regardless of how 2017 finishes: This is a possibility, but I’d have to fathom an unlikely one. The team started horribly, but I have to think that some level of rebound (even if it requires a Super Bowl victory) would be enough to make the Bengals bring back Lewis after this season, right?
His job is safe. He won’t lose his job after the 2017 season: This option is the purely pessimistic option for those who are so disillusioned with the Bengals front office that they think the team will never move on from Marvin Lewis. If 14 seasons without a single playoff victory hasn’t gotten him fired, some may feel that the team has grown so complacent they they will never get rid of him.
Personally, I’m in the “deep playoff run” camp. After 15 seasons, I expect more than a lone playoff victory, assuming they can achieve such a result this season. I think anything short of a sustained run thru the playoffs, at least winning the Wild Card game, and another, to reach the AFC title game, would be necessary for Lewis to keep his job.
But that’s just my view. What do you think Lewis needs to do to stay employed as the Bengals head coach beyond 2017?
What would it take for Marvin Lewis to keep his job after the season?
This poll is closed
Win the Super Bowl
Make a deep playoff run
Win a single playoff game
Reach the playoffs
Finish strong, but miss the playoffs
His job is safe. He won’t lose his job after the 2017 season