In April of 1992, John Gotti, the nation's most notorious mobster since Al Capone, was found guilty of murder and racketeering, ending a six-year campaign by federal prosecutors to convict the man who had eluded them in three previous trials.
Gotti had been a pro at evading prison. For much of those six years, he was a public icon, whose days were numbered, but kept avoiding the guillotine when everybody had counted him out. That’s where he got the name Teflon Don.
And that’s why as far back as 2012 The Shadow League bestowed the same title on Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, who is the second-longest tenured head coach in the NFL.
I wrote this about Lewis:
"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.
Five years later and Lewis is still controlling the mic in Cincy. He’s still getting asked to leave by everyone but ownership. But according to ESPN 980's Chris Cooley, after a disappointing 5-10 record so far this season coupled with years of failing to make it out of the playoffs first round, The NFL’s Teflon Don will finally be sent packing.
According to cincy jungle.com, on Sunday morning’s Cooley & Kevin show on ESPN 980, the host and former Redskins player suggested this will be Lewis’ last year in Cincinnati.
“From somebody I know in Cincinnati, Marvin Lewis will retire at the end of this year, slash, be asked to retire,” Cooley said during hour two of the show.
“The idea is that he’s (Marvin Lewis) been slowly packing up the office though,” Cooley claimed. “Slowly putting the pieces away so next Sunday, he can get home, have a little meeting and say see ya, I’m going to spend some time in Arizona and play some golf.”
Cooley’s sources are of course unknown and his claim doesn’t hold all too much merit as Marvin Lewis has claimed he will not quit on the Bengals.
Per a Cincinnati Enquirer one-on-one interview with Lewis back in early December:
He said he will be back next year, if asked. “Coaches don’t fear being replaced,” said Lewis. He lamented the length of the offseason: “Unless the teams in front of us fall on their faces, we have to wait so long to get back to it (next year), and then it seems like (the season) just goes,” too quickly. “like it’s Saturday night all the time.”
I immediately beg to differ. While Lewis may get fired, I believe that the decision is still very much up in the air and Bengals ownership -- Lewis’ biggest supporters during his solid 14-year stretch with the squad -- would prefer to keep him.
(Marvin Lewis and Bengals owner Mike Brown)
It seems that every offseason we hear rumors of Lewis’ eminent demise and he manages to not only survive the gauntlet but starts the next season with even more power or team control.
For some, the relationship between Lewis and Bengals ownership defies logic. If you look at his tenure with a limited scope you will see a man with seven postseason losses, the most of any coach who has never won a playoff game. In sports, traditionally the next logical step after a successful coach continuously fails to get over that playoff hump is to get rid of him and label him as a solid coach who couldn’t get his team to elite levels.
Bengals fans have been begging for a change for years. Yes, it’s change for the sake of change because the Bengals under Lewis have been a solid and winning franchise as indicated by his 115-99-3 career record, four AFC North Titles (the last coming in a 12-4, 2015 season) and six seasons of 10 or more wins.
For all of his playoff misfortune, Lewis has been a godsend for a club that was a franchise worst 2-14 in 2002, before he took over the following season and completely changed the culture by leading them to 8-8 seasons his first two years at the helm and then exploding to an 11-5 campaign in 2005.
It was the Bengals’ first winning season and first AFC North division title in fifteen years. Following another division title in 2009, Lewis became the first Bengals coach since team founder Paul Brown in 1970 to be named Coach of the Year by the Associated Press
Lewis has guided the Bengals to five straight playoff appearances from 2011-2015 and an 8-0 start in 2015, both firsts in franchise history, and holds the record for most wins as a Bengals head coach.
I personally don't feel like it's a done deal that Lewis will be fired or even asked to retire as Cooley suggested. Productivity like his is hard to find. And if Lewis’ track record counts for anything, which it obviously does with Bengals ownership, he rebounded to make the playoffs after every losing campaign he’s ever endured.
Under Lewis, the Bengals have endured so many setbacks and a brief run as the league’s most lawless team, peaking with the unfortunate and tragic death of Chris Henry. He was able to masterfully maintain order, clean house and establish discipline in the locker room while still getting wins.
Sometimes teams just need a change. The city needs a change. I get that. It’s the only reason why the Bengals would fire a head coach with a regular season pedigree rivaled only by Bill Belichick. The fans will see that they have been spoiled by the team’s competitiveness under Lewis.
If he does get fired, there will be a lien of suitors at his door ready to bring in a coach that knows how to build a consistent winner, deal with players, is respected by ownership and one super stud QB away from winning a few of those elusive playoff games.
The Bengals are still waiting to win that elusive franchise Super Bowl. Without Lewis at the helm, that wait might be even longer than they care to imagine.