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Parting Thoughts on Marvin Lewis and Candidates

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The Cincinnati Bengals and Marvin Lewis parted ways on Monday. Now the search begins for the team’s 10th head coach.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

This is one of those postings that may only interest me — AKA, I’m thinking about something and I answer it via a Chop Block post. There’s very little insight, story structure, or analysis here; just answering random musings from the couch during a stormy Cincinnati afternoon. There might not even be a conclusion; I’ll just stop when I’m finished.

It finally happened.

The Cincinnati Bengals announced Monday that they’ve mutually parted ways with head coach Marvin Lewis, leaving a vacancy in Cincinnati that hasn’t existed in 5,830 days. Over the course of nearly 16 years — from his hiring on January 14, 2003 and his departure on December 31, 2018 — the franchise has made significant progress under Lewis, who made it work with limited resources and a fiscally oppressive owner.

“I want to thank the Bengals’ organization, the fans and the city of Cincinnati for their support,” Lewis said via a team-released statement. “I regret I haven’t been able to provide them with the No. 1 goal of being world champions. I also want to thank our players, coaches and team employees for their effort and professionalism over the past 16 years. A lot of fine people have gone through this building in that time, and the organization is better for all of them having been a part of it.”

Over 16 seasons, Lewis won more games (131) than any coach in franchise history, earned NFL Coach of the Year (2009), four division titles (2005, 2009, 2013, 2015), and seven postseason berths (2005, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015). In addition, he changed a culture of losing into something far more competitive, upgraded amenities (like a weight room, better food), and helped enhance the player personnel department. Yes. There are blemishes... and we know what they are.

Then there’s the work he did within the community. “Since its inception, the Marvin Lewis Community Fund has raised more than $13 million with an average of 92 cents on each dollar going back to the community,” writes Jennie Key with the Cincinnati Enquirer. “More than 10,000 volunteers have worked for the fund.”

In addition:

The fund has recognized honor roll achievements for more than 178,206 students in the four school districts. The community fund also awarded more than $1.9 million in scholarships to 84 students. The first scholarships were awarded in 2005 and the final group of eight were given out in 2017. Even with Lewis leaving, existing scholarships will be fully funded until the last group graduates in 2021.

“The team is very appreciative of all that Marvin has accomplished over the past 16 years,” said Bengals President Mike Brown. “Personally, I am very fond of Marvin and will miss working with him. He is a friend and a colleague, and I thank him for what he has meant to this franchise. But it is time to turn the page and look toward the next chapter for our organization, and we are excited about what the future holds for the team and our fans.”

What Lewis has done for Cincinnati shouldn’t be disregarded or ignored; he’s done more for our community than most of us. He’s done more for the Cincinnati Bengals franchise than any executive, coach, or player throughout his regime. Lewis will go down as one of the greats in franchise history.

However, this is a business and business is not good in Cincinnati — a city pouring money into FC Cincinnati, college sports, and maybe the Reds, who made a splash this offseason. There’s only so much recreational sports money and the Bengals need a share of that hypothetical pie with a perfect hire. The Bengals began a search for their 10th NFL head coach on Monday.

According to reports, they are requesting interviews and expressing interest with offensive-minded coaches like Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (another failed head coach), Rams passing game coordinator Shane Waldron, Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor (interview could happen as soon as Friday), who is also receiving affection with the Arizona Cardinals. Former Bengals defensive backs coach Vance Joseph (another failed head coach) could receive consideration, either at defensive coordinator or head coach. Internal candidates like offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and special teams coach Darren Simmons will speak with the front office, with one insider writing that Simmons “has a real good shot at the job.”

Based on these names, it’s clear Cincinnati wants a coach with an offensive background — which seems like an outdated model when forming prerequisites for a candidate.

Then there’s Hue Jackson.

Words like “endorsed” and “lobbying” are being thrown around in articles recapping Marvin Lewis’ opinion on his successor. When asked on Monday if he’d like to see Jackson “in the mix” as Cincinnati’s next head coach, Lewis said:

“I think Hue should get an opportunity to speak with them. I think he’s more than qualified and has been in a couple of difficult situations. That’s tough, and it hasn’t broken his way. I think he’s an excellent football coach, he’s a great motivator, he’s detailed. So I think he deserves an opportunity — if not here, somewhere else.”

Many of us have an opinion that Jackson would be a disaster. He failed in Oakland and Cleveland, leaving much dysfunction and losing seasons in his wake. On the other hand, keeping him as the team’s offensive coordinator actually makes sense — Dalton’s best season (2015) came during the second year with Jackson as the play-caller.

Regardless... head coach? Nope.

So we watch. We wait. The process will play out.

The question is: Will ownership find another Marvin Lewis, a coach that embraces the community and helps push the franchise to a new level? Or another Dave Shula/Bruce Coslet/Dick LeBeau?