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Bengals defy logic, re-sign Marvin Lewis to 2-year contract extension to remain head coach

The embattled Bengals head coach will be back for his 16th season in Cincinnati and could be back in 2019, too

Brown and Lewis

Marvin Lewis has coached nearly twice as many games during his 15 years in Cincinnati as any other head coach in Bengals’ history.

And, we now know he’ll be adding to that as the Bengals have decided to bring him back for his 16th season as head coach of the Bengals. The team announced on Tuesday that Lewis had been signed to a two-year contract extension.

“Marvin Lewis has been an important member of the Cincinnati community and the Bengals family for the past 15 years, and we are happy to have reached this agreement,” said Bengals President Mike Brown. “Marvin has made significant contributions during his time here. While recently we have fallen short of our expectations, we have full confidence in Marvin to re-establish winning football in 2018.”

Lewis also commented on the extension on Tuesday.

“My family and I are very grateful for the opportunity to stay in Cincinnati and continue my career with the Bengals,” said Lewis. “My job is to win a World Championship. We have a talented roster full of veteran leaders and emerging young stars, and I am committed to making the necessary improvements to put this team in the best position to win.”

This news comes as somewhat of a surprise after weeks of reports that Lewis and the Bengals would mutually part ways at the end of the 2017 NFL season. The Bengals are coming off back-to-back losing seasons and after 15 years as the man in charge in Cincinnati, Lewis has zero playoff wins to his name.

Lewis has coached 240 games for the Bengals, including 125 victories and three ties. Sam Wyche, who is second on that list, coached in 127 games between 1984 and 1991. Wyche led the Bengals to Super Bowl XXIII, where they lost to Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers. Wyche finished with an overall record of 61-66, and was 3-2 in the playoffs.

He has the third-best winning percentage of any Bengals’ head coach. Forrest Gregg coached Cincinnati from 1980 to 1983, and finished with a record of 32-25, good for a winning percentage of .561. He was the UPI NFL Coach of the Year in 1981, when he led the Bengals to their first Super Bowl, where they lost to Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers. Gregg finished with a playoff record of 2-2. Bill Johnson put together a record of 18-15 (.545) between 1976-1978 and never made an appearance in the playoffs.

Paul Brown, the founder of the Bengals, went 55-56-1 in his during with the Bengals from 1968 through 1975 and led Cincinnati into the playoffs on three separate occasions. Brown never experienced a playoff victory as a coach, just like Lewis.

Lewis has more division titles than any other Bengals’ head coach with four. No other head coach managed more than two. Lewis also had boasts the most playoff appearances with seven, but is still looking for that elusive first playoff victory.

That zero out of seven mark in the playoffs is one of the biggest issues with Lewis, who said this year it’s not his job to motivate his players and said last year that halftime adjustments are a media-created lie.

“I’ve been a part of teams that have won a lot of play-off games and your goal is to win the world’s championship,” Lewis said in the days leading up to the Bengals’ season finale against the Ravens. “We went in saying we want to win the world’s championship. We didn’t say let’s win a play-off game. That’s not the focus. Our goal as an organization is to be world champions. We’re not going to get there this year. That’s my job, to get the team to win the Super Bowl, and we’re short of that this year.”

Next year is a new year, and many of the Bengals players are once again excited to be starting it with the only NFL coach they have ever played for.

“He’s means a lot to me as a person,” safety George Iloka said of Lewis. “He’s the longest coach I’ve ever known. In terms of a head coach, he’s been with me most of my football career. He’s always pushed me, stayed on me, things like that. I respect him and love him for that.”

Like a lot of players, Iloka thinks this team is not far from making a deep run into the postseason, despite the disappointment of a second-straight losing season.

“We just want to win,” he said. “We’re definitely close. A couple of different calls this way, a couple of different plays this way and we’re sitting here in the playoffs. Obviously, people don’t want to hear ‘we’re close’ again, but we are. I can’t put my finger on it, but we’re close. I think the pieces are here. A few more additions, upgrades, whatever position that may be, a few different things here and there, I think we can finally get on top of that hill.”

Whether it is the top of the hill or the bottom, it will be Lewis who leads the Bengals once again in 2018.

“He’s been a sense of stability, a guy’s that’s just been steady throughout the ups and downs of the season,” quarterback Andy Dalton said. “He’s brought a lot of experience. He’s obviously done it for a long time. To be in one place for 15 years is a true testament to him. He’s made a big impact on a lot of guys. I’m very thankful for everything Marvin’s done.”

As fans, we tend to forget the good things that Lewis has done, for the team as well as for the community. We forget how Lewis took the Bengals out of the lost decade of the 90s, when the “Bungles” earned a reputation as one of the worst franchises in the NFL. And we forget about five straight trips to the playoffs, and six in seven years. That is an accomplishment in and of itself. Just ask the Buffalo Bills, who earned a playoff nod this year for the first time since 1999. Instead, we focus on the disappointment of two straight losing seasons.

Still, that’s not enough to reasonably stick with Lewis after seven playoff losses, zero playoff wins and back-to-back losing seasons.

The Bengals—mainly, Mike Brown—seem to fear the unknown and don’t want to attempt to find a coach who’s better than average. But, that’s only hurting them and has hurt them for all the years that Lewis has failed to get the Bengals past the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

But, don’t tell that to AJ McCarron.

“You’ve got to stick with it,” AJ McCarron said. “It’s not always going to be highs. You have to go through the lows and come out on the other end. This team’s built for that. I think this team has a bright future.”

So there you have it, Lewis will remain the Bengals’ head coach in 2018.