When Marvin Lewis’ time with the Cincinnati Bengals ended, it wasn’t even a true firing. Lewis and the club had a mutual agreement to part ways after 16 seasons filled with plenty of wins, but rarely any of the meaningful variety.
Eventually, both sides knew a change had to be made.
In an interview with Dan Pompei of The Athletic, Lewis and Bengals owner Mike Brown opened up for the first time about how Lewis’ tenure with the Bengals came to an end and how the two of them co-existed as partners and friends.
The years when Lewis was consistently clinching playoff appearances became the most successful era of Bengals football under Brown’s reign as owner and de facto general manager, but even Brown knew that once 2018 wrapped up, it was past time for a change.
“The public was mad at him, mad at me, mad at the world here,” Brown said in regards to letting Lewis go. “I did what I felt I had to do, but with great, great regret. It was very hard for me. But I would recommend him as highly as possible. …He’s a very fine coach and deserving of consideration to coach in the league. He was excellent here.”
Three-straight losing seasons followed the last time Lewis coached the Bengals into the playoffs in 2015, but as Pompei writes, Lewis was supposed to step down before it got to that point. Hue Jackson was to be Lewis’ successor following the 2016 season, but Jackson took the Cleveland Browns job right after 2015 and lost it before Lewis was shown the door in Cincinnati three years later.
The downturn of the team following 2015 is what sealed Lewis’ fate, and he probably overstayed his welcome long before 2015 even concluded. Many still put most of the blame on Lewis for the team going 0-7 in the postseason in his 16-year run, and rightfully so, but Brown maintains that shouldn’t be the case.
“It was a string of things, any one of which could have gone the other way but didn’t,” Brown said. “All of that ended up meaning we didn’t win in the playoffs, but it wasn’t that we weren’t a good team in the playoffs. We were. Things just happened, and it was unfortunate. It wasn’t anything that related to Marvin.”
That the Bengals did have quality teams playing postseason football makes their winless record under Lewis more disappointing. Take it from Lewis himself, who won a Super Bowl coaching the Baltimore Ravens’ defense a few years before coaching the Bengals out of total irrelevancy.
“You are hired to win the Super Bowl,” Lewis said. “We didn’t get to where we were supposed to get to.”
Lewis couldn’t even get past round one, and while that will forever sting, he will always be revered for elevating the franchise out of the dark pit of despair it was stuck in before he arrived.
There are a lot of other interesting details about Lewis and Brown in the interview. Click here ($) to read the full piece!