So, Marvin Lewis is sticking around in Cincinnati for another two years. Happy New Year, Bengals fans!
Mere moments after the news broke, my phone lit up with text messages from my friends who are not Bengals fans. One friend asked me, “What happened?” (to which I responded, “I have no freaking clue”), while another friend told me to “Have fun with Marvin for another two years” (to which I responded, “I won’t”).
My own reaction was denial. I thought, “This can’t be happening. How could Bengals owner Mike Brown be this dumb?”
I thought this was the only explanation. Mike Brown is dumb. But a few minutes later, another thought crossed my mind.
What if Brown is just lazy?
Now, I think we can all agree that this looks like a dumb move. Obviously, Lewis’ playoff record is quite bad, but that dead horse has been beaten so much that it somehow came back to life only to be beaten to death a second time. Some would argue that his playoff record is enough of a reason to let him go: 15 years as head coach, seven playoff berths, zero playoff wins.
But the interesting thing about this story is that Lewis was not given his annual contract extension after the 2016 season. Basically, Marvin needed to prove during the season that he could be a successful head coach. He needed to earn his job back. Smart, right?
Well, here are all the things he did to earn his extension:
- Drafted John Ross in the first round, and refused to play him until he was injured and had to go on Injured/Reserve.
- Lost control of his team to the point that A.J. Green punched someone in the face.
- Failed to show any urgency in games with playoff implications.
- Threw Ross under the bus for not having experience.
- Threw Jeremy Hill under the bus for opting to have season-ending surgery.
- Threw the defense under the bus for being on the field too much.
- Pretended not to know his players heard rumors he would be leaving.
- Claimed it is not his responsibility to motivate his players.
- Led his offense to be the worst in rushing, scoring, and time of possession in the NFL.
If that’s not enough reason to move on from Lewis, I don’t know what is.
The John Ross fiasco is alarming, and stands alone as grounds for Lewis’ firing. Either he whiffed on a first-round pick (a TOP TEN PICK!) or he failed to prepare his first-rounder to play, which is also unacceptable. Yes, we later found out Ross was concealing a lingering injury, but there is nothing to indicate that Lewis knew about it until minutes before he was placed on IR.
The Jeremy Hill fiasco is alarming. The fact that Lewis let Hill impede the development of second-round draft pick Joe Mixon for no apparent reason is further grounds for his removal. Lewis literally said that Mixon had to learn from Hill, who hasn’t played well since his rookie season, for the first drive of each half. Not only that, but then to bash him for choosing to undergo surgery is a low blow.
The whole season was alarming, since Lewis showed no evidence that he knew what he was doing at any point in the season. Amidst questionable play-calling all year, other coaching blunders included blowing a 17-0 lead at home to the Steelers and admitting in a press conference that he didn’t know what his job entailed. He didn’t even seem to notice or care when the Bengals were playing for a playoff birth. He said things all season that made it seem like he was legitimately trying to be fired.
For these reasons, extending Lewis as the Bengals’ head coach is dumb, and therefore Brown is dumb.
Unless he is lazy.
Think about it. Lewis is the safe, low-risk option. Sure, he’s no Bill Belichick. He probably won’t even win a playoff game. But you know what you’re getting with him. You’re getting a coach that can at least get your team to the playoffs and keep the fans just happy enough to put their butts in seats at Paul Brown Stadium.
But I doubt the fans are going to be putting their butts in the seats at the same rate with Lewis back. Fans are enraged, largely. Many fans have already canceled their season tickets due to Lewis’ return as head coach.
Can you imagine what Brown would have to do if he wanted to hire a new head coach? There would be interviews, vetting, contract negotiations, work, work, and more work. Finding another coach would be hard. Settling with Marvin is simple.
I can’t think of any other reason Marvin Lewis gets two more years. He has not earned it, but has in fact proved himself incapable of handling the responsibility.
So Brown is either lazy or dumb. It has to be one or the other.