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In defense of Marvin Lewis

Let’s take a moment before before we go crazy.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t get me wrong; I am as outraged as the next guy. I was very much looking forward to anyone other than Marvin Lewis coaching the Bengals in 2018.

After setting my hopes on a Fake News report, I learned that my mistake was not getting anything in writing.

But before we go crazy, let us consider both sides to this story.

I am not going to try to convince you that this is a good move. If anything, I am just trying to convince myself. But just hear me out, consider both sides, and then you may pick up your pitchforks and resume burning your Bengals jerseys.

Please consider some of the reasons this move makes sense.

Players love him

Many Bengals players took to social media to express their gratitude and excitement. Giovani Bernard said in an interview that this move was “good for the organization.

Adam Jones simply said, “Let’s go get it,” while Carlos Dunlap excitedly posted on Twitter and Instagram several photos, and also issued a statement expressing his confidence that the team will be back to their dominance of a few years ago.

Some former players even showed their approval. Two former wide receivers in Cris Collinsworth and Chad Johnson both posted their excitement about this move. Johnson even defended Marvin from Stephen A. Smith on Twitter.

Former offensive lineman Willie Anderson went on a tweeting spree explaining why he thought the players were still all in on Marvin, and why Marvin deserves to stay in Cincinnati.

Are players always the best evaluators of coaches?

No. But this means that the players are still fighting for Marvin. After all, they are the ones who spend every day on the practice fields, in the locker room, and watching film with their coach. If the players don’t feel good about it, then we have a problem

The New York Giants showed us what can happen when players are not happy with their coach. While the fans and the media may not see this as a good move, at least the players are happy about it. They’re the ones that put their bodies on the line for the team.

Elevated the “Bungles”

Every time someone talks about firing Marvin, someone else alway chimes in, “Look at where the Bengals were before he got there.” If I had a dollar for every time I heard that line, I would have enough money to buy the Bengals and hire my own coach.

But why do people keep saying that? Because it’s true.

The year before Marvin arrived, Dick LeBeau’s Bengals won a franchise-worst two games. Not only is LeBeau’s career winning percentage in Cincinnati the worst in franchise history, but two of the next three from the bottom immediately preceded him. Basically, three of the four worst coaches in franchise history were who Bengals fans had to suffer through before Marvin was hired.

What did Marvin do with the worst team in franchise history? He made them winners. He won four division titles, made seven playoff appearances, and changed the culture in Cincinnati. Instead of the “Bungles,” fans have become accustomed to 10-win seasons and playoff berths. It hasn’t always been pretty, but Marvin has always been reliable.

He took the laughing stock of the NFL and became the winningest coach ever in Cincinnati. Not only does he have the most wins in franchise history, but he has won more games with them than anyone else has even coached.

Sam Wyche, the second-winningest coach to stand on the Bengals’ sideline, who took the team to their last Super Bowl appearance, only coached 121 games. This year, Marvin rounded out his win total to 125.

That’s not a stat you see every day.

Better than potential replacements

Most of us can agree that Marvin is a good coach, can we not? That’s not our problem with him. A good coach takes a team to the playoffs five years in a row. But he didn’t win any of those games, which is why Bengals fans want a great coach.

But where does one find a great coach?

Should the Bengals look to someone with coaching experience who is currently unemployed? There are the Jim Caldwell’s, Jay Gruden’s, and Jeff Fisher’s of the world. Are they really better than Marvin?

The best option currently on the table would be Jack Del Rio, but even he is a bit of a gamble. He really only had one good season with the Raiders, and after getting Derek Carr healthy and bringing Marshawn Lynch out of retirement, he still only went 6-10.

Should the Bengals find some up-and-coming assistant? The Broncos did this with Vance Joseph, the Browns did it with Hue Jackson, and the Giants did it with Ben McAdoo.

Those are not models the Bengals want to follow. Even though Marvin was a case where he was a successful assistant coach himself, finding someone like that is harder than it seems. Some respected assistant coaches include Josh McDaniels and Pat Shurmur, who have both been head coaches but have losing records.

Needless to say, it is hard to find a great coach who has little to no head coaching experience.

The Bengals were trying to avoid the mistakes of other teams who let their head coaches go too soon and replaced them with worse candidates. The Bears learned this lesson with John Fox, the 49ers learned it with Chip Kelly and Jim Tomsula, and the Browns learn it pretty much every time they hire a new head coach. Marvin is still the best option available to the Bengals.

Good at finding assistants

Marvin’s coaching tree is nothing to sneeze at, featuring four current NFL head coaches.

In 2013, the third time Marvin took the Bengals to an AFC North Championship, the staff included Mike Zimmer, Jay Gruden, and Hue Jackson. A few years later, the team added Vance Joseph, who would later become the Broncos head coach. We’re probably not that far away from adding Paul Guenther to the tree as well.

One of the best ways a head coach can help his team win is to hire great assistants. Marvin has proved he can do this. Gruden and Jackson are often given credit for Andy Dalton’s success while they were still in town.

Zimmer and Guenther have been heralded for their defenses with the Bengals. For all of Marvin’s weaknesses, he sure knows how to find others who can negate them. The Bengals have had many good teams under Marvin’s tenure, and can thank a myriad of assistant coaches for that.

Works with Mike Brown

One of the hardest jobs Marvin has had to do (and will have to continue to do) is work with the owner. Brown is not easy to handle.

For all of Marvin’s blemishes, it might be Brown’s fault that Marvin has had limited success. Brown refuses to hire a General Manager, has very few scouts on his staff, is notoriously cheap, and sometimes tries to do Marvin’s job for him.

One of his most egregious offenses Marvin to let go of Andrew Whitworth. He later tried to trade AJ McCarron to Marvin’s disapproval. Basically, Marvin is hamstrung by Brown.

Fifteen years into his job, though, Marvin has learned how the organization works and has built a great relationship with Brown. During one of his recent press conferences, he said that he talks to Brown almost every day about football.

The two talked for days before deciding that Marvin would remain with the team. Brown trusts Marvin, and seems to have a specific direction for the team. Perhaps one of Marvin’s best attributes is his relationship with Brown.

If you’re still not convinced, I don’t blame you. If anything, it feels like we have been betrayed by the Bengals organization. But it is out of our hands. The best thing we can do right now is root for Marvin, regardless of your feelings about him.

I don’t think this was a good move, but I sure hope I have never been more wrong about anything.