On Friday, the Cincinnati Bengals pulled what some are calling an "expected surprise" by extending the contract of head coach Marvin Lewis through 2017. Talks between the parties had been ensuing since the conclusion of the 2015 season, and though feelings are mixed on the extension because of Lewis' 0-7 playoff record as a head coach, many believed it would happen regardless.
Around the same time the Bengals and Lewis were talking about an extension, their offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson left to assume the vacant head coaching position with the Cleveland Browns. Upon his leaving for the AFC North rival, Mike Silver of the NFL Network had a vague report about a last-ditch effort to hang on to Jackson by their offering a head coaching succession plan before leaving. Now, with Lewis' newest extension, there appears to be more details on this supposed succession plan, per Silver and CBS Sports' Will Brinson.
According to Mike Silver on NFL Network, when discussing contract extensions, Lewis went to Bengals owner Mike Brown and offered him a deal that involved a succession plan for Jackson.
But Brown didn't want to put anything in writing guaranteeing Jackson a job in two years and the talented offensive coordinator bolted.
"With Hue Jackson, his offensive coordinator, a hot head coaching candidate, Marvin Lewis went to Hue Jackson and together they hatched a plan that would have kept Hue Jackson on with a two-year succession plan at which point Marvin Lewis would step down," Silver said. "They went and shopped that to owner Mike Brown, who did not want to put that in writing."
Before we paint the embattled Bengals owner in a familiar bad light, Brinson noted that Brown was interested in the idea, just not the part of putting some sort of guarantee in writing. It's somewhat understandable, given that no one can truly predict what could happen with the franchise over the course of two years, as well as it being a bit of a groundbreaking notion in a football coach's contract.
Still, Brown's reluctance to put something in writing to hang on to Jackson ended up seeing Jackson walk out the door. Not only did Jackson bail for a promotion with a division rival, he landed with the team most hated by the Brown family, going back to the days of his father, Paul, and his bitter feud with Art Modell. Lewis and Jackson will face off twice a year in "The Battle of Ohio".
A lot of questions will continue to be asked with Lewis' fourth extension since 2012. Did Brown make the right decision in not doing what was needed to hang on to Jackson? Will Lewis move to a front office role with the team after he stops taking these rental-like agreements from the Bengals? And, most importantly, is Lewis the coach to lead the Bengals to a championship in these next two years?