On Sunday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that “after 15 seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, [head coach] Marvin Lewis is planning to leave the team to pursue other opportunities after this season.” Lewis denied the report and the Bengals were unaware of it, too.
So maybe Lewis is leaving Cincinnati by his own decision. Maybe he’ll be forced out at the end of the year and this was a way to have his hat thrown into the ring of consideration prior to the end of the year. Maybe he’ll move into a full time front office job with the Bengals and someone else will be the head coach. Maybe Lewis will return for a 16th season in 2018.
Who knows, but Schefter isn’t the type to make such strong declarations without confidence in his reporting.
Lewis has been one of the most successful head coaches in Bengals history, winning four division titles and reaching the postseason seven times- but he’s failed to record a single playoff victory and now the Bengals are going to post back-to-back losing seasons for the second time under Lewis (2007-08 was the other).
Other teams have poached head coaches from the Bengals coaching depth, including Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, Washington head coach Jay Gruden, Browns head coach Hue Jackson, and Broncos head coach Vance Joseph, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Bengals decided to promote someone from within, like defensive coordinator Paul Guenther or special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons, or they could make a move to acquire Jackson from the Browns.
There are a lot of directions the Bengals could go.
Lewis is currently the second-longest tenured head coach in the NFL, behind only New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Belichick started his job in 2000 and Lewis followed in 2003. The next-oldest are Packers head coach Mike McCarthy and Saints head coach Sean Payton, both of whom started in 2006, with Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin starting in 2007 and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh starting in 2008.
If Lewis were to be removed from his post, that could create an enormous gap in the coaching timeline from Belichick to McCarthy and Payton, with Belichick showing no signs of slowing down. But just compare the track record of Lewis and Belichick over that span of time.
Lewis: 4 division titles, 7 playoff appearances, 0 playoff wins, 1 Coach of the Year award
Belichick: 15 division titles, 15 playoff berths, 5 Super Bowl titles, 3 Coach of the Year awards
That’s a huge difference in success on the field, and yet Lewis has been able to hold on to his job for such a long span of time. Of the 10 coaches hired in 2012 or earlier, six have won Super Bowls, a seventh lost one (Panthers head coach Ron Rivera), one is about to be fired (Colts head coach Chuck Pagano), and the others are Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and Lewis.
It’s always a surprise that Lewis has held on this long as he always seems to do just enough to keep the Bengals competitive, but is always unable to have his team disciplined when it matters most or perform at a high level in the spotlight.
Patriots fans have been spoiled with Belichick’s success over the past two decades. Imagine going 15 years without a single playoff victory and not having a coaching change.
The Bengals need a change-up, just like how the Broncos needed a change-up from John Fox after the 2014 season. The team is built to be competitive, but there just isn’t the necessary coaching ability to push the team over the top.