This past week will go down in Cincinnati Bengals history as one of the worst and most embarrassing on record.
Cincinnati lost two games, at home, in a row, and they did so to two of the worst teams in the NFL; Baltimore and Houston. Adding insult to injury, not a single touchdown was scored in either game — the first of which was a shutout. Andy Dalton's QBR in Week 1 (0.7) was one of the five worst since the metric became "a thing" in 2006. Ironically Dalton also has one of the top five best quarterback contracts in the NFL.
In head-spinning fashion, after a "near mutiny" in the locker room, offensive coordinator Ken Zampese was canned, quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor promoted (promoted, for doing what?), and your friend Hodgie woke up in a tub of gluten-free vegan chocolate éclairs.
So, what was Marvin Lewis' reaction to all this, in the days after the game? Certainly, he must have had something meaningful to say, right?
Hahahaha… you really don't know how this all works, do you? Look, when Cincy Jungle reached out to me to write this column, I knew what they were looking for: Someone who could cut through the static and translate Marvin Lewis's soothsayer-esque language into straight talk.
When Marvin says, "I won't tell you," he can mean many things. It could mean, "Your guess that there will be major changes in staffing is completely correct." On the other hand, it could very well mean, "I think your mom is calling you."
But even I am amazed at Lewis's art of dissimulation this week. Look closely at what he said to the press immediately before Zampese was fired. I'll keep it short, because I think this is a lesson for all of us: Don't attend press conferences if you want to know what's going on with the Bengals!
Q: Are all things on the table regarding personnel changes?
ML: “We have to get better, but I’m never going to come in here and tell you what we’re going to do one way or another. That’s private to us.”
TRANSLATION: “We have two options here. I can sit here silently, or we can all pretend that what I’m saying right now counts as a response.”
COMMENTARY: All things were on the table. Of course they were! In a matter of hours, Zampese would be fired.
Q: What have you seen through 18 games with offensive coordinator Ken Zampese that makes you believe that he can turn this around?
ML: “He’s worked incredibly hard at this. He has good command of the things we’ve done. But, we’re not getting the results we need to get.”
Q: Are you committed to Zampese at this point?
ML: “I just answered your partner’s [question about that]. Nice try, though [laughs].”
Q: So no changes this weekend?
ML: “We’re not going to discuss that in here.”
TRANSLATION: “A priest, a rabbi, and an imam walk into a bar. Oh, you’ve heard this one?”
COMMENTARY: Look, at this point, let’s just agree that Marvin Lewis’ press conferences aren’t a subtle game of cat-and-mouse. This is straight-up “Tom and Jerry”; The press sees Marvin running away with cheese, they open a door and an anvil falls on their head.
In a matter of hours, Zampese would be fired. The reporters clearly had a hint of this—as you can tell by their line of questioning. Yet, Marvin hides his thoughts and decisions behind a cloud of shrugs and smiles as thick as a Kabuki dancer’s makeup. I have a lot to say about the Bengals, as do all those in any way invested in the future of this team.
You can watch me say it in this video:
But despite the fact that we all have a lot to say, we will have to get used to the fact that Marvin Lewis seems to say less as more is at stake. My guess is that, if Cincinnati loses two more games, he’ll sit down at a press conference, wave down a puff of smoke, and disappear like the Joker behind a billow of laughter.