Earlier today, the Cincinnati Bengals and head coach Marvin Lewis agreed to a 2-year contract extension. This move comes after weeks of speculation on whether Lewis would return as the team’s head coach next season. Just before the Bengal’s 34-7 week 15 loss to the Vikings, a report surfaced that claimed Lewis would be leaving the team following the conclusion of the 2017 season. Lewis denied the report, but most Bengal followers genuinely believed this would be his final season in Cincinnati.
But, here we are. Lewis remains the team’s head coach, and nothing has changed. Only Marvin Lewis knows if he really intended to leave. Perhaps he was merely posturing for more control over the organization. Whatever the case may be, one thing is clear. This move demonstrates that owner Mike Brown lacks the will to improve this team.
For many Bengal’s fans, this is a commonly held belief. After all, Lewis has remained the team’s head coach for 15 years, without a single playoff win to his name. Over the years, there have been several opportunities to part ways with Lewis and go in a different direction. But, at the time, none made more sense than today. The general feeling among fans in Cincinnati is that Lewis has overstayed his welcome. He’s demonstrated, time and time again, that he’s taken this team as far as he can as head coach. As long as Lewis remains in Cincinnati, the Bengals are unlikely to make a deep playoff run.
It’s become clearer than ever that Bengal’s ownership does not seem to care and does not want change. They don’t want to go through the trouble of finding a new head coach. A new coach would likely demand uncomfortable changes. A new coach would demand accountability. He may even demand this team be run like a winning professional football franchise. Those things, apparently, are unacceptable to Bengal’s ownership.
Bengal’s ownership (specifically Mike Brown) and Lewis seem to have an understanding. There is no other owner in this league that would have kept Lewis for this long, with so little to show for it. Brown is content with the current state of this team as long as his bottom line remains unaffected.
This team used to be the league’s running joke; five wins was considered a successful season. They were like the 90’s version of today’s Cleveland Browns. Lewis has been good enough to prevent them from returning to this form during his tenure. But we also know it’s unlikely they’re ever going to get much better which, in a way, is almost worse.
At least bad teams get to look forward to exciting high draft picks and optimism for the future (excluding the Browns, who have blown countess such opportunities and seem to be stuck in a state of perpetual misery). Mediocrity is perhaps the worst possible state to be in today’s NFL, but the Bengals seem to be perfectly content with it. The news of this extension makes me wonder if it’s a state from which they will ever escape.