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Bengals mailbag: CEO Lewis, rebuilding vs. re-tooling and Urban legends

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We received a number of great questions from Cincy Jungle readers and Orange and Black Insider listeners this week. Of course, some revolved around the coaching future of the Bengals.

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The season is coming to a close, and even though the Bengals are theoretically alive for the postseason, almost every set of eyes associated with the club seem to be aimed to the offseason. With each passing week, fan unrest grows, as everyone is contemplating the future of the club.

Through a variety of different avenues, loyal Bengals fans reached out to us with some very interesting questions about the team. We answered some of them on this week’s episode of The Orange and Black Insider Bengals podcast, but also wanted to run some of them down on our weekly mailbag feature.

You can email, tweet us (@BengalsOBI, @CJAnthonyCUI or @CincyJungle), or join us live as we record the show. Our thanks to those of you who emailed us and called into the program this week!

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One question we received on this week’s Orange and Black Insider episode revolved around Marvin Lewis moving out of the head coaching position and into a front office role. This was a popular fan opinion over the past couple of years. Essentially, the crux of the idea is in keeping a guy who has some big strengths and has the owner’s ear, while moving him out of a role that exploits his weaknesses.

We won’t harp on it in an overly-lengthy fashion, as we’ve already touched on the subject a bit, but it is worth re-addressing as the major crossroads that is the 2019 offseason is a few weeks away. It’s especially noteworthy because owner Mike Brown seems adamant about keeping Lewis within the Bengals organization—even after subpar seasons on the field.

There are positives with a Lewis move “upstairs.” He has seemingly used his influence to make the Bengals at least sort of resemble a modern NFL franchise. This could very well continue is Lewis holds anything close to a general manager position.

Topics like indoor practice facilities, more free agency aggression and nimbleness in the draft could gain more gravitas with the front office with Lewis in a position of power. If he calls the shots in hiring his replacement and said coach also preaches the same messages as Lewis, that would provide even more clout with ownership.

Speaking of coaching, however, that’s one of the criticisms in giving Lewis management power. If he would be given say in the next hire, it would likely be someone in his inner circle who thinks and operates the way he does.

In all likelihood that could be Hue Jackson, or someone of the same ilk. If that’s the case, it could perpetuate many of the same issues we’ve seen over the past 16 seasons with Lewis being the head man on the sidelines.

There’s also the idea of just totally starting fresh from the Lewis era. They simply can’t do that if he’s now given a position with arguably more power than he already has right now.

If the team is going to look for a new head coach, they might as well go in a completely new direction and that probably won’t happen with Lewis as an executive.

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Speaking of Jackson and the possible vacant head coaching job in Cincinnati, his name, among others, has come up frequently should that gig become available. And, if you were to poll the Bengals’ faithful about that prospect, you’d probably get an overwhelmingly negative reaction.

Fair or not, most folks look at the abject failure of the Jackson regime with the Browns as the barometer for a potential takeover in Cincinnati. They also point to his one season with the Raiders where he orchestrated a trade for Carson Palmer, yet the team still failed to make the playoffs.

Still, there are a couple of positives with a Jackson hire, however small they may be. For one, he has experience with dysfunctional franchises and their owners, given his time with Cincinnati, Oakland and Cleveland. He also lassoed Andy Dalton into having his best season as a pro in 2015, and has extensive AFC North experience having spent time as a coach with every team in the division, save the Steelers.

Recently-fired Packers coach, Mike McCarthy, is another interesting name to connect to the Bengals. Many believe he’ll be a frontrunner for the Browns job, but wherever he lands, he’ll bring a resume with a Lombardi Trophy on it.

Opinions vary on McCarthy, though. Is he an innovative guy who just needs a change of scenery, or was he merely the beneficiary of inheriting two Hall of Fame quarterbacks during his tenure in Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers?

Either way, there is another intriguing name from the region who might be a long-shot hire.

Urban Meyer holds a special place in the hearts of many Ohioans. He took over (The) Ohio State University football team after it saw some turmoil at the end of the Jim Tressel era, winning a National Championship and three Big Ten championships.

Recently, Meyer announced his retirement from the Buckeyes, citing health concerns. It’s a very similar situation to the one he concocted at the University of Florida, which was the job he left before landing with OSU.

Not coincidentally, Meyer bailed on both programs on the coattails of some controversy. In his tenure in Gainesville, over 30 arrests of his players took place, while one of his Ohio State assistant coaches was exposed for domestic abuse allegations before this season began.

So, is this most recent retirement from football for good, or will he return after a year away from the game? If he does want to come back, will both he and the Bengals be interested in the head coaching job?

If there is a fit here, I’d venture to guess it would be a succession plan from Lewis in 2020. This would give Meyer a year off to rest up, while giving Lewis one more year to try and grab glory, while also allowing he and Mike Brown to part on more amicable terms.

Would Meyer be a good fit in Cincinnati, though?

He was born in Toledo, attended the University of Cincinnati and has 10 years of regional coaching experience in the high school and college levels. There is also a handful of players on the Bengals’ roster who played for Meyer in college (Carlos Dunlap, Sam Hubbard and Billy Price). He and Lewis have also done some public events together, for whatever that’s worth.

But, he has zero professional coaching experience, which doesn’t always point to immediate success for a lifelong college coach. And, one can’t ignore the interesting trail of legal situations that follow him from job to job.

All three of these men might be options the Bengals explore either this offseason or next, but they would also be better served to broaden their horizons.

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As the offseason approaches, many folks are calling for an overhaul of the Bengals after what looks to be three consecutive losing seasons. Most folks around these parts remember the 1990s and want no part of that again, while an 18-26-1 from 2016-2018 screams “Lost Decade”.

So, as the final three seemingly-meaningless games begin to pass us all by, the question of needing a total rebuild, or some simple tweaking has come to the forefront of fans’ minds.

It would seem that most in Who Dey Nation want to see Marvin Lewis relieved of his long-standing position as Bengals head coach. But, is that the only major figurehead that should be given his walking papers?

Quarterback Andy Dalton has seen his season cut short from injury for the second time in four years, while also entering a year in his contract that allows the team to walk away from him with minimal financial penalties. Vontaze Burfict, when actually on the field, has been a shell of his former Pro Bowl self, while many other position groups have underachieved and/or lacked overall talent.

Lewis has spearheaded a couple of “rebuilds” with the Bengals—2003, 2009 and 2011. All were successful to a certain degree and all included some coaching shakeups at the assistant level.

He also attempted to place his stamp on the 2018 season’s “re-tooling” by sweeping changes in his coaching staff. Lewis really put his reputation on the line by hiring and subsequently firing Teryl Austin, then taking over the defensive coordinator duties himself.

In short, the coaching overhaul didn’t have the effect he had hoped and has played a pretty big role in the team sitting at 5-8. And, with the long leash Lewis has been given over the past 16 years, many believe that this season’s collapse should be his swan song as the team’s head coach.

A listener in this episode of OBI stated the desire of rebuilding the coaching staff and re-tooling the roster. While it may be a bit of a gray area of a stance, I love the statement and think that is what’s needed in 2019.

For some of the current successful coaches, we’ve seen examples of them taking over a talented roster, as well as others rebuilding it in their image. As we sit here today, there is talent on this Bengals roster, but a lack of proper development, critical misses in the draft and inopportune injuries have greatly hindered this team.

And, it’s in those development issues and organizational practices where a rebuild should begin.

If you’re unable to join us live for here at Cincy Jungle or YouTube every episode, all Orange and Black Insider content is available here on CJ, as well as on our SoundCloud, Stitcher, through the Google Play Music app and YouTube channels, ART19 as well as on iTunes! You can tweet us @BengalsOBI or get in touch with us via email at theobinsider@gmail.com. Thanks for listening and go subscribe to our channels!