Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is a Houdini of sorts. In his 10 years as head coach, Lewis has a losing record of 74-79-1, has been ousted in the first-round of his three playoff appearances, and has been likened to a jester of a three-ring circus.
For years, the Cincy blogs have called for Lewis’ ousting. In this cut throat NFL world, – where coaches are fired in an eye-blink– when the rumors start swirling, Lewis is usually a hot topic. But when the smoke clears, he escapes the axe and is on the sidelines still rocking the orange and black Bengals fitted.
It must be magic.
Lewis is the black Norv Turner. He’s the first to get ripped and the last to get blitzed. You have to credit Bengal’s owner Mike Brown. He is certainly an independent thinker. By now, most owners would have either succumbed to the public pressure of Lewis’ unremarkable coaching record.
The fact that Lewis remains at the helm, proves that there’s something to be said for comfortability. The Lewis-Brown relationship has worked in the past because, philosophical differences aside, Brown made it clear that he is the boss and Lewis respected the code, never overstepping his boundaries. It’s this same comfortability that some fans say has lead to complacency.
Lewis’s social skills are obviously top notch. In business, sometimes it’s better to be liked than good. His players and Brown generally like him.
Lewis’ timing is another attribute that saves him from the flying guillotine. Some expected Lewis to leave last season. Instead, he finessed his best coaching job, taking a young team with a rookie QB to a Wild Card game. Brown was feeling the six-game improvement, and blessed Lewis with a two-year contract extension worth $6.5 million. He wanted to keep the band together.
"Coming off a playoff finish last year, with a solid coaching staff and good young players, continuity at the top gives us our best chance to do well," said Bengals president Mike Brown in a statement , following the signing.
This season, Cincy flew out the gate with a 3-1 start and then dropped three-straight. The rumor mill was chugging again. Lewis responded by uncharacteristically and publicly challenging his young linebacker Ray Maualuga to set the defensive tone by being more of a “jerk.” He implored his second-year signal caller Andy “Red Rifle” Dalton, to “grab this football team by the back of its neck and let's go.”
Lewis’ timely challenge worked. Since his passionate plea, the Bengals are 2-1 and back in the AFC playoff mix.
Hard to imagine Lewis coaching anywhere else. Only Brown can truly appreciate Lewis for the BS he’s had to overcome, and his decade-long service to the franchise.
Plus, if Lewis left Cincy, there’s no guarantee another head gig would pop. His teams are up and down likeLisa Rey in “Player’s Club” and were racking up Robert Downey Jr. arrest numbers for a stretch.
Marvin Lewis has probably felt more like the head of a psyche ward for an Ohio state correctional facility than Bengals’ coach. Lewis survived the OchoCinco era, which was rife with drama. The ignorance was highlighted by an early 2009 playoff exit and the bizarre death of troubled Chris Henry.
The Cincy soap opera hit rock bottom in an eight-day span in July 2011, when Bengals running back Cedric Benson was bagged for assault, safety Marvin White was cuffed-up at his child's Louisiana day care center, and cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones was arrested after the famed “Bandz A Make Her Dance” strip club incident. The incidents brought the Bengal’s arrest total to 37 since 2000, ranking them second behind Minnesota (40), according to a database maintained by the San Diego Union-Tribune.
That was Lewis’ Bone, Thugs and Harmony squad. There was a lot going on during that time and most heads thought Lewis would either be fired for lack of control, or quit due to stress. Brown and Lewis’ relationship has never been all rosy. The two have had philosophical differences, but shared a mutual respect. Lewis has gotten more vocal about his direction for the team, and Brown has responded with an improved player personnel department and infrastructural changes. The Bengals’ culture is also changing for the better. The continuity at the top, that Brown mentioned, is there as well.
Despite some rough four-win seasons, Lewis has led the Bengals to two AFC North titles. Most fans don’t mention that. Just the circus that overshadowed the purpose in Cincinnati. Lewis is taking steps towards creating a new magic. Some might call his public plea to his team desperate. Maybe it’s just part of the progression of Marvin Lewis.