Marvin Lewis is now the former head coach of the Bengals, which is something that many fans have waited a long time to say. It hasn’t always been that way though.
When Lewis was hired, he was the perfect choice for a team looking to establish some resemblance of culture after being one of the worst teams in the NFL for over a decade. He helped turn a franchise that was at rock bottom rise to relevancy during his tenure, and the standard of which he held his players to lasted until his final moments as head coach.
“I don’t know what’s ahead. The toughest part was just spending the last 20 minutes with the players, telling them and encouraging them that there’s more there,” Lewis told reporters on Monday. “They have to understand that, and they have to hold that passion of yesterday (against Pittsburgh) and understand every time they finish a rep, every time they want to shortcut something, that’s why you don’t. So when you’re in that situation, you have that feeling you had yesterday in that football game. That’s what it’s all about, that’s why they do that. They know this is their job, but also it’s the competitiveness and the passion of what they do that they have to hold true to. It’s just been about that today.”
It is never easy leaving behind a group of people that you’ve worked so closely with for the better part of a year. The coach’s life keeps you close with your players nearly everyday, now he has to walk away from that after securing the team’s third straight losing season.
It was time though. The team had never won a playoff game during his 16 seasons as the head coach, and it was starting to look like things were going to get worse before they got better. The Bengals are at a spot where they have a nice mix of veteran players exiting their prime with a group of young players coming in to try and support them.
Those young players getting through some of their growing pains seemed to be something Lewis enjoyed watching at the end.
“No, it hasn’t actually. I thought the last seven weeks have been as motivating as they could be. But no, that’s the thing I enjoy.” Lewis explained. “Our players got younger this year, as we know, and you enjoy that part of them. I told Emily (Bengals Director of Communications Emily Parker) as we were walking off the field Friday or Saturday, ‘It’s the same thing, they’re kids.’ I wish they were more hardened veteran kids, but they’re kids. They ran around yesterday and played their tails off. I saw one missed tackle, Katherine (ESPN Bengals Reporter Katherine Terrell). I was shocked (laughs, fittingly). I was impressed, actually, with the tackles and the ferociousness of the tackling in the game.”
This quote really does show the need for change. Most of the Bengals’ problems had nothing to do with young players. Sure, players like Billy Price and John Ross had their struggles, but then you see the right side of the offensive line not seeing any needed in-season change.
Even when the blocking was good, the play-calling was stale — on both sides of the ball; and how many years in a row do we need to complain about the linebackers looking lost?
It is easy to see where the blame could truly lie.
It also shows Lewis thinks the potential is high for this team considering how young they are at the moment. There are plenty of young careers like Joe Mixon’s who are just starting to takeoff. It is players like that who could lift Cincinnati somewhere that Lewis was never able to take them.
Nevertheless, Lewis is leaving a legacy that goes beyond anything he has done for the Bengals on the field.
“I (appreciate) the legacy we were able to start with the (Marvin Lewis Community Fund) Community Fund — all the support from the community of Cincinnati to put all those kids through college with scholarships, (to help) kids in high schools, and the programs. I appreciate that. I know all of you have been helpful with that as well, because you’ve helped carry (the messages) publicly.”
Lewis has dished out $20,000 worth of scholarships annually to local student athletes who have shown a commitment to their community among providing other things like free youth football camps. He has left his footprint on this town, and has made an impact that should be felt for generations to come, which says a lot about Lewis as a person.
What says even more is probably his reluctance to follow through on the goal he set when he first took the job back in 2003.
“I appreciate the dedication of everybody in this building over the last 16 seasons. I appreciate Mike (Bengals President Mike Brown), his family and their support, all the players, coaches, fans, everything. I didn’t deliver what your No. 1 goal is, and that is to be world champions. We didn’t get that done. There have been a lot of positives, but that’s the one goal as a coach that you look forward to doing. Mike and I both decided that it’s time. It was a tough moment for both of us, but I think we both realized.”
Needless to say, whoever takes over the job as the Bengals’ head coach will have big shoes to fill and the same goal to meet.