Marvin Lewis’ tenure as the Bengals head coach has finally come to an end. He is out as the team’s head coach, per multiple media reports.
According to Tom Pelissero, it was Mike Brown’s decision, suggesting that he did the unthinkable and actually fired Lewis.
Marvin Lewis has informed his #Bengals staff he's out as coach, source said. Owner Mike Brown made the decision.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) December 31, 2018
Lewis finished 16 seasons in Cincinnati as the Bengals head coach. One may look at his 131-121-3 record without a single playoff win and think his tenure as a head coach was a failure. However, Lewis did plenty to change the culture that was beyond toxic when he showed up.
Cincinnati was one of the worst teams in the NFL before Lewis came to town. The Bengals best finish from 1991 till 2002 was 8-8, which only happened once. Lewis brought stability to a franchise that was in desperate need of it. It only took him till his third season to get the Bengals back to the playoffs for the first time since 1990, and he would lead the Bengals to six more playoff appearances during his 16 year tenure.
His accomplishments prior to the Bengals include orchestrating one of the most dominant defenses in NFL history when the 2000 Ravens won the Super Bowl led by a defense that allowed the fewest points in a 16-game season (165).
In recent seasons, though Lewis has had more of a negative impact than positive, as the Bengals have won just 19 games after they made five consecutive playoff appearances. He has routinely shown that he and his staff simply hasn’t modernized as far as scheme. While most NFL teams are enjoying almost unreal offensive success, the Bengals are still struggling to move the ball consistently. You couple that with their defense becoming one of the worst in the NFL, and it just isn’t a good recipe for success.
He has also recently held off mixing in younger players for struggling veterans. You can look at guys like Dre Kirkpatrick, William Jackson, Darqueze Dennard, Christian Westerman, Tyler Boyd and many more. The offensive line has also been a point of contention as it has steadily gotten worse over the past few years, and they have stubbornly kept trying to make the same lineup that started the season work despite Billy Price’s struggles at center and Alex Redmond’s and Bobby Hart’s struggles in general on the right side.
You also can’t blame all of the team’s struggles on Lewis as Cincinnati’s inability and lack of effort to keep top talent has surely impacted the team’s ability to stay competitive and get over the hump of the Wild Card.
The question after Lewis’ exit becomes who will take over as the Bengals head coach? That is something we will likely have to follow the next few days or even weeks. It seems like the preferred choice of Mike Brown is to bring back someone from Lewis’ coaching tree.
Guys like former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and former defensive backs coach Vance Joseph (who was most recently the head coach of the Broncos) would be very high on the list. Then again Lewis was a pretty big name when he was hired as the mastermind behind the Ravens incredible defense from the early 2000’s, so we can’t be sure how limited the search is until it starts.
There is no doubt that the past three seasons have hurt Lewis’ legacy in Cincinnati to the point you’d have to look extremely hard to find a fan in favor of keeping him at head coach. It is still hard to imagine what this team would’ve looked like without him in 2003. At some point we need to find common grounds as fans and appreciate him turning this franchise around, but knowing that the Bengals held onto him for a few seasons too long.