When the Cincinnati Bengals decided to move on from Marvin Lewis, mostly everyone agreed it was time for a change. Lewis brought the team back to respectability, but both he and the veterans on the roster never seemed to recover from the 2015 Wild Card loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The front office went with the surprisingly-innovative decision to go with the exciting, but unproven option in Zac Taylor. The hope was that Taylor would take the solid foundation Lewis had laid over the past 16 years and build upon it in the form of eventual postseason wins.
Half of a season into the Taylor era and the Bengals are still searching for the young coach’s first regular-season victory. Going 1-11 so far in 2019, including the preseason, isn’t exactly how anyone imagined the start of a new era of Cincinnati football.
Unfortunately, the losses may be costing this staff more than meets the eye. While we aren’t privy to the discussions in the private office walls of Paul Brown Stadium, it’s hard to imagine that a new, inexperienced coach has gained any amount of internal sway with a stubbornly-conservative management group after an 0-8 start.
This isn’t an ode to Lewis and the call for his return, mind you. But, the fact remains that he had the front office’s ear because of his Super Bowl pedigree, charismatic personality and immediate equity he had gained because of a near-playoff season in his very first season.
The clout Lewis immediately gained was a launchpad into the Bengals making the leap into modernity. Gone were the horror stories of players being issued used jockstraps and playoff berths were far more regular than in years past.
Free agency was another area in which Lewis had some more initial clout. Prior to this past half-decade or so, Cincinnati actually had some significant participation in outside free agency. Yes, the acquisitions included the disasters that were Antwan Odom and Antonio Bryant—nightmares that still apparently haunt the front office today—but, the coach made the push to be more active in outside forays in the early years of his tenure.
Lewis’ two successful rebuilds and seven postseason berths continued to build his resume. It’s why he was given a string of “prove-it” extensions and why Mike Brown said he had taken more of a back seat to the Blackburns, Duke Tobin and Lewis (at the time), in terms of day-to-day operations.
So, what exactly are we getting at here?
It’s possible that Taylor has (or had) a bit of his own sway within the organization right off the bat. He too has an engaging personality and likely sold the Browns/Blackburns on his vision. It’s also been reported that, unlike the front office’s relationship in the later years with Lewis, Taylor meets with management on almost a daily basis.
If Taylor gained some internal say right away, it may be on its way to being quieted with a winless start to the year. We know that the Brown family has traditionally preferred to do things “their way” (hence the shutting down of trade talks this year), so if the team continues to show a lack of progress for the rest of 2019, ownership may be quicker to shut down ideas coming from outside of the inner circle.
With the recent decision to bench Dalton, Taylor is assuming the mantle of the responsible party. That is probably true, but it’s unlikely he did so without the front office’s blessing.
Ownership has to realize that the winless start and offensive struggles are the biggest contributors to a pretty empty Paul Brown Stadium and thus gave the go-ahead. It also might point to a young coach feeling heat after just a half-season into his tenure and one who knows he needs to show even this uber-conservative ownership team some form of improvement for the rest of the 2019 season.
This is probably nothing more pure speculation on our part right now, but we’ve seen this organization torpedo past coaching tenures before, either intentionally or unintentionally. So, the idea of their potential of pulling in the controlling reins isn’t that far off-base. Especially on the heels of an 0-8 start without significant signs of immediate improvement forthcoming from a young head getting his first big shot.
It’s also not something we’d like to see, as this is a team that is adverse to new, outside-of-the-box ideas. But, if Taylor pounds the table for a high-profile move next offseason after coming off of, say, a 2-14 season, how much gravitas would he really have, in terms of swaying management’s opinion?
Would it be more of the Browns’ “our way, or the highway” type of scenario? Maybe, maybe not, but we’ve seen that play out before as well.
Things that we also discussed on the postgame reactions episode of the Orange and Black Insider:
- The fact that the Bengals aren’t doing the little things well, nor are they taking advantage of golden in-game opportunities to get wins.
- On the rare occasion when one of the three units does something positive, the other units usually forget to ride the momentum and opportunities are squandered.
- There is a possibility that the team would have a totally different offensive line look in 2020 than the five starters they put on the field in London.
- It has been reported that the team isn’t looking to trade anyone this year. Whether they do or do not deal some of their stars, the team needs to have a logical, comprehensive plan behind the decision and stick to it.
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