Shortly before the Bengals kickoff against the Vikings, a shocking development was released that would overshadow the game for fans. It was reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter that head coach Marvin Lewis would be leaving the team at season’s end.
After 15 seasons in Cincinnati, Marvin Lewis is planning to leave the Bengals after this season to pursue opportunities elsewhere, league sources tell ESPN.
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— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 17, 2017
This presumably marks the end of the fifteen-year relationship between Lewis and the Bengals organization. Lewis first came to Cincinnati in 2003 to replace the outgoing Dick LeBeau as head coach. He was a defensive coordinator in Washington and Baltimore before earning the head job in Cincinnati. Since becoming the Bengals’ head coach, Lewis has posted a record of 118-103-3 including an infamous 0-7 record in the playoffs. Lewis’ inability to succeed in the postseason was likely a contributing factor to the Bengals’ decision to move on from him, if the report is true.
Another would be the team’s lack of success in the past two seasons. Since reaching the playoffs in 2015, the Bengals have had a total record of 11-18-1. The team, as a whole, has been a let-down in that time frame. Their roster doesn’t lack talent, but they haven’t been able to capitalize and meet expectations set for them. The disappointment in the last two years has led to a large share of fans turning on Lewis. For those who wanted change, Lewis’ playoff record and apparent inability to control players at times have been sticking points. With this announcement, change is no longer a fan discussion for the Bengals; it’s (presumably) happening.
What It Means Now
In coming weeks, Mike Brown and others in the Bengals brass will look for the man to follow Lewis as the tenth coach in franchise history. It will be interesting to see what candidates are considered for the position, both in-house and from elsewhere. Per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is a heavy favorite for an interview, if not an early favorite for the job outright.
Marvin Lewis did not get a contract extension this year. Deal up. Was not coming back. Bengals DC Paul Guenther a strong internal candidate
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) December 17, 2017
If they decide to grab someone from outside the organization, the position should generate a lot of interest. The Bengals, at least with Marvin, were one of the most liberal teams in the NFL in terms of giving personnel control to the coaching staff. It’s also – as evidenced by the length of Lewis’ tenure – an unusually secure job in an increasingly volatile NFL landscape. Candidates who may have a vested interest in running their own show, like New England’s Josh McDaniels, should be interested. Other coaches who want to reestablish themselves in the head chair, like Philadelphia’s Jim Schwartz, should appreciate the longer leash.
What It Means Going Forward
The parting of ways for Lewis and the Bengals organization marks the beginning of a new chapter for both parties. For Lewis, he will be free to pursue other ambitions, whether they be coaching elsewhere, the front office, or broadcasting. For the Bengals, they can reset a team too far removed from the heights of Lewis’ tenure.
But for those who cheer for Cincinnati, Lewis deserves to be remembered for his positive contributions than his bad times. He helped resurrect the Bengals from one of the worst sustained periods of ineptitude in NFL history. From 1991 to 2002, Cincinnati earned a total of 55 wins – similar results to this past decade’s Browns. Lewis led the Bengals to multiple playoff appearances in a stretch when two other division rivals were contending for championships. Lewis had the Bengals playing competitively. He’ll leave behind a cupboard loaded with talent that he had a primary role in stocking.
If Lewis is indeed leaving, his final game with the Bengals will be December 31st in Baltimore. His final home game will be this coming Sunday against Detroit.