Fire the coach!
Trade the quarterback!
Sell the team!
I think we’ve all said (yelled) these phrases on more than a few occasions. Some of you may’ve just said them this past Sunday when the Bengals dropped to 5-5 on the year after losing to the Ravens 24-21.
The Bengals are not out of the playoff race with their record, but can we really say that the playoffs are in reach with any true conviction? What does this team have to show for after dropping four of their last five games? Their season has completely turned on its head after they came out of the gates 4-1.
Part of this implosion involved certain coaches getting exposed. Teryl Austin’s defense couldn’t maintain competence without relying solely on turnovers. Bill Lazor’s offense has floundered without Tyler Eifert and now A.J. Green to bail him out.
Marvin Lewis is, well, still Marvin Lewis. And the defensive coordinator version of himself doesn’t appear to be much better.
Hope is dwindling when it comes to Cincinnati’s professional football team; and just like the last two years, things appear more bleak than inspiring as we enter the final third of the regular season.
And I’m here to tell you that tanking is not the answer.
Let’s look back at the 2016 and 2017 seasons. The Bengals finished with six and seven wins in those two years respectively, obviously missing the playoffs after each season concluded.
For a head coach in his first couple of seasons, 13 wins in two years likely isn’t a death sentence. For someone like Lewis, who lost his seventh-straight playoff game in catastrophic fashion the year before that six-win season, accountability would have surely found its way to his doorstep.
If Lewis was not going to get fired by the Bengals following the 2017 season, then a reality should have set in for everyone who has chosen to associate themselves with the Bengals franchise: Losing doesn’t matter.
Lewis has done a lot of winning in his time in Cincinnati, but most of that has accompanied with losing due to the inordinate amount of time he’s been with the organization while having so little to show for it. Most head coaches would find themselves around the .500 mark after 16 years with a singe team, and Lewis is nothing if not average compared to his peers.
13 wins in the two years since the team’s last playoff game birth and five playoff losses prior to all of that wasn’t enough for Lewis to get the pink slip, so why losing out this season and finishing at 5-11 suddenly be enough to do so? It wouldn’t, that’s the whole point.
Marvin Lewis is here for as long as Marvin Lewis wants to be here.
Bengals owner Mike Brown had the prime opportunity to go out and find a fresh face for his team this past offseason to rekindle the talent that is lying dormant in Cincinnati, but he chose to stick with Lewis. He’s comfortable having the coach that saved him from the basement of the NFL lead his team, even if he’s lead them as far as he possibly can.
And a Bengals team with Lewis at the helm will (almost) never be amongst the worst teams in the league by the end of December, but they will just as rarely be amongst the very best.
Brown seems to have made peace with that, and the least we can do is accept it.
But we can also realize that the head coach’s employment and the owner’s mindset will not change based upon wins and losses. That assumption has been thrown out of the window by now. Things will change when those two decide they want things to change, and nothing else.
So for now, the best bet for all of us to hope for luck.
If the final record doesn’t matter, then why not hope for the minuscule chance the Bengals have at making and doing anything in the playoffs? It’s not the expectation by any means, and betting on it is beyond idiotic, but it’s more enjoyable than the alternative.
“But what about getting a better draft pick?
Outside of selecting A.J. Green with the fourth overall pick back in 2011, the Bengals have shown they’re just as inconsistent at nailing a first-round pick in the top half of the draft order as the bottom half. Their best pick in recent years has been William Jackson, who was taken 24th overall.
Darqueze Dennard was also taken at that same spot, and Tyler Eifert was taken with the 21st overall pick. Unless they’re picking in the top five, where they end up is all but irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. One day we can start holding Duke Tobin accountable for this, but we’ll save that for later.
When you boil it all down, the Bengals will not get better in the long run by purposefully stinking it up in the short run, that’s not how they operate. Tanking will not bring them any closer to moving on from Lewis, as his owner has shown he’s comfortable with him running the show as long as he generates consistent revenue and nothing else.
In the choice between meaningless wins and meaningless losses, there’s really not much choice at all.