Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is heading into his 15th season with the team and he is facing the most questions in his NFL career. Aside from many wondering if he is the man to lead the team to a Lombardi Trophy, he also has questions surrounding his job security past this season.
Lewis is in the final year of his contract and there doesn’t appear to be a new one on the horizon. Owner Mike Brown was asked about the possibility of Lewis sticking in Cincinnati past 2017 at the team’s annual pre-training camp luncheon. While he didn’t squash the idea of giving Lewis a new contract, he also doesn’t appear to be in a hurry to do so.
“I plan to proceed at my own pace and my own way and when I think it’s the right thing to do to rev that up, I will,” Brown said, via Jay Morrison of The Dayton Daily News. “But it’s not going to be something I’m going to delve into publicly. It’s going to be at a pace that I think is appropriate, and I don’t know that I can forecast that for your satisfaction, or even my own right now.”
Though most teams don’t like to see their coach in lame duck status, few coaches need to earn their next contract more than Lewis. While he has brought the Bengals back to respectability, Lewis has not achieved a single playoff win in seven tries. Even with those failures and Brown being non-committal to a contract, the levels of comfort and respect he has in Lewis continue to be apparent.
"We have a very strong relationship," Brown said via ESPN. "He's been with our team as long as any coach in the league other than [New England Patriots coach Bill] Belichick. He's earned his spot here. We're comfortable with him, and we think he's comfortable here, too."
Lewis obviously embraces the high comfort level Brown has in him and their cozy working relationship. While they seemed to get along well in Lewis’ first phase of his coaching tenure from 2003-2010, it’s really reached a new level since 2011. Aside from the five straight postseason appearances from 2011-2015 appeasing Brown in that latter span, the team has also conducted a refocusing of internal processes, giving Lewis a huge sense of trust in this organization.
Even so, one might be inclined to think Lewis is uneasy with his current contract status as he has no job secured for 2018. If he truly is uneasy though, he isn’t showing it publicly as he channeled some “coach speak” when asked about his contract situation on Tuesday.
"It doesn't matter what I have going into the season. My contract is for this season. That's all that matters," Lewis said. "Whether I have a contract or not in professional sports, it really doesn't matter. ... The only thing that's important is this right now. My contract right now has no bearing on this football team for the 2017 season. That's what's important."
Lewis is unlikely to get an extension before Week 1 of the 2017 season, but it will be interesting to see what happens once the team is back on the field again. While both men might want to see the long-term future solidified, there doesn’t appear to be any imminent talks right now.