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Re-examining Marvin Lewis' standing among NFL head coaches

Recently, USA Today wrote a piece ranking the NFL's head coaches. Though it's an arbitrary list conceived by sports writers, we take a look at Lewis' resume and review his standing in the league.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Power rankings and lists. They are two inevitable conceptions by sports writers, as they attempt to compare and rate players and franchises to appease the masses. While these lists contain largely-shared opinions, that's what they're exactly based on: opinion.

USA Today's For The Win, recently ranked the NFL's head coaches from 1-32. There are a wide range of variables writer Chris Chase used to formulate the list, ranging from past postseason success, consistency and the current state of the team they oversee in 2015.

Chase has Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis at No. 13 on the list, a similar placement to other lists both from For The Win and other sources in recent years.


A tribute to persistence and the cheapness of the Brown family. Lewis, a former star defensive coordinator was at .500 or under in six of his seven seasons. Somehow he kept his job and has brought the Bengals to the playoffs in each of the past four years and exactly half of his years in Cincy. There is a small issue of him being winless in those games, however, but we give a bonus for the two ties which is a fantastic mark in today’s NFL.

The note of sarcasm and shot at the Brown family aside, Chase applauds the recent consistency of the team under Lewis' watch, but also talks about the common critiques on Lewis' resume. The zero playoff wins goes against his legacy, as does the beginning of his coaching career, with only two playoff berths in his first seven seasons. Speaking of which, is that what Chase is referring to with the ".500 or under" comment? If it's the beginning of Lewis' coaching career he's referencing, I count two playoff berths (thus two winning seasons) in his first seven seasons.

But, I digress.

Consistency is something franchises covet almost as much as their pursuit of a franchise. And, only a small handful of teams over the past five years have exemplified the trait as much as Lewis' Bengals in that time. Cincinnati has placed themselves among the league's elite, given their four straight playoff berths and current 6-0 start this season.

Lewis is the second-longest tenured active head coach, behind the number one ranked coached on Chase's list, New England Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick. Lewis' 106 career wins rank fourth among active head coaches behind Belichick, Tom Coughlin, and Andy Reid. That number also puts Lewis ahead of Super Bowl winning coaches like Sean Payton (82), John Harbaugh (74), Mike McCarthy (100), Mike Tomlin (84), and Pete Carroll (85). Lewis has beaten all of these head coaches in head-to-head matchups, but all five rank higher on the list than Lewis.

Quarterback Andy Dalton has had an outstanding start to the 2015 season, and despite the constant knocks he receives from, well, everywhere, he has also had an historical start for an NFL quarterback, in both stats and wins. Still, Dalton hasn't risen to the levels of "elite quarterbacks" (whatever that means these days), like  Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady. The aforementioned coaches have had the luxury of striking the lottery in that sense.

A couple of names ahead of Lewis could call Chase's list into question. Rex Ryan went to two straight AFC Championship games, but hasn't had a winning season as a head coach since 2010, yet he's right ahead of Lewis at No. 12. Ron Rivera has one playoff win, but only 37 total wins as a head coach, yet he's at No. 11. Bruce Arians has produced a very similar renaissance in many ways in Arizona to the one Lewis has overseen in Cincinnati, but does his resume boast much more than Lewis'? He comes in at No. 10.

The Bengals don't have the best coach in the league. For all of the turnarounds Lewis has brought to Cincinnati, the Bengals still have yet to win a Super Bowl, let alone a playoff game under Lewis. Still, it's the one-eighty the team has done over the past 13 years that should bear major merit.

In short, the Cincinnati Bengals were a dumpster fire in the 12 years that preceded Lewis' arrival. The franchise was coined as one of the worst in all of professional sports and was the laughing stock of the NFL. Lewis brought accountability during the early years of his head coaching career, while still playing by Mike Brown's rules. After wrestling away some power from Brown and a subsequent restructuring of the front office with a renewed focus before the 2011 offseason, Who Dey Nation has seen the fruits of that labor with 46 wins over the past 70 regular season games.

While 2015 could be a magical season that ends with Lewis hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, there is still a lot of football left to be played this year. It's yet to be determined if Lewis is in the Marty Schottenheimer mold--a guy who can make a poor team immediately competitive--or if he finally has what it takes to lead his team through the postseason.

Maybe we'll see Lewis skyrocket up this list next year if the team keeps marching on in the fashion we've seen this year.