This life holds many mysteries; the cosmos, the meaning of life (if there is one), love, the mind of Donald Trump (if there is one)….and thee one that keeps me awake at night, sometimes… why does 14th year, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, still have his job?
Yes, that’s 14 years. In dog life, that’s 98 years. In NFL life, that’s 98 years.
In my world, it’s a given that we will never wrap ourselves around the concepts of the cosmos, life, love, and Trump…but we should at least attempt to understand the Marvin Lewis thing.
Why you ask? (I’ll assume you have). Because it defies the laws of the universe. You might (or not) say that Marv Lewis is the NFL’s version of the black hole. He defies logic. He defies explanation. He defies gravity.
Like those who wondered before me…Hubble, Sagan, Kinsey, Leary (Timothy), this inquiring mind wants to know…has to know.
According to the Lakeland (Florida) Ledger, NFL head coaching jobs last on average a mere 38 months. Lewis’ employment is a mere 14 years. To compare, Tom Coughlin took the Giants of New York to two championships. Coughlin lasted seven years.
Lewis had college stops at Idaho State, New Mexico and Pitt, then stayed in his hometown to work for the Steelers before moving on to Baltimore and eventually Cincinnati as headmaster.
I was underwhelmed by Marv’s early success at 16-16, his first two years in Cincy. But hey, it was early. When he went 11-5 the third year, there was promise. But after going 4-11-1 in year six (46-55 over six years), I assumed he would get the boot. I mean….really.
I was scratching my head in bewilderment.
By the time he got to year eight (4-12), I was somehow appalled at the lack of explanation for this man still having his job (as if someone owes me an explanation). I mean, this is pro sports, it’s win or go home. Isn’t that so?
In the last five years, Lewis has had five winning seasons, collectively 52-27 (.656). That’s the good news. That got him into the playoffs five years straight, where he promptly lost them all. That’s the bad news. He stands at 0-7 in the playoffs. You want to win in the playoffs. Isn’t that so?
My head is very itchy.
I know this sounds absurd, but to reiterate, Marvin Lewis has reached the postseason for half of his head coaching life and has never won a playoff game. Think… the Susan Lucci of football.
At this point I want to be clear, despite my dubiety, I am not advocating his employment one way or the other. Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn (except for a subject to write about). If I were a Cincinnati Bengals fan however, I would give a lot of damn. So I’m wondering….do they?
*Jimmy Johnson won two super bowls in five years in Dallas and was history.
Given the position of head coach, the longevity and results of such, and the patience of NFL football club owners… how is the 14 year reign of Marv Lewis possible?
WAIT! This just in…Marvin Lewis’ employment has been EXTENDED!
WHAT?? Yes, a one-year extension stretching his tenure to 15 years before the 14th has even played out. He has been given his 3rd consecutive one-year extension.
My head is so sore from scratching, it’s bleeding.
I am flabbergasted. And I seem to be the only one. I never hear controversy, rumors, trash-talk, innuendos, threats, or rumblings of Lewis’ staying power.
I never hear the questioning of his resolve to win. What I do hear is that Marv Lewis is the Bengals all time wins leader. Well that’s great, but that’s akin to saying that Susan Lucci is the all-time Emmy nominations leader.
Susan Lucci was nominated 18 times for a daytime Emmy (a record) and lost them all before she won in 1999. Is this the fate of Marvin Lewis?
Maybe the trend here is to wait and wait and wait until your coach wins a championship, then cut him loose. Maybe the league’s winning coaches just got to their peak sooner than Lewis, so he’s still working it. Is that the criteria for coaches? Stay till you win?
*Tony Dungy won a championship and was out of Indy in seven years.
Lewis’ record as a head coach in the NFL is 112-94-2, a .543 percentage. I would call that average, mediocre, so so.
I voiced this aloud recently and a relative said “that’s the expectation in Cincinnati.” Is that so?
The gig of NFL head coach is not easy to come by and it’s not an easy job. The hours are brutal, although the pay is great. The scrutiny is awful although you get to be on television. Your every move is analyzed, although you get to star in beer spots and zany movies. And with the internet here, don’t get caught picking your nose, God forbid.
*The Ravens Brian Billick won one Super Bowl and lasted nine years.
So how can this be? How can the Susan Lucci of NFL football still have his job (and not be looking like Susan Lucci?) I can only surmise, but the only logical (and remember, Lewis defies logic) explanation I have is….he is a really nice guy.
On the surface, Marvin Lewis appears to be a really nice man, a gentle soul. Even when he pulls coach antics, his face never gets red. There is no appearance of rage or lividness, saliva does not spew, there appears to be little ranting and raving.
Basically, I guess he’s just too nice to fire. Mike Brown simply can’t pull the trigger. And I don’t hear anyone calling him to.
I marvel at marvelous Marvin and his tenacity. But Marv’s playoff record speaks for itself. 07. It has to be extremely painful for Bengal lovers to endure football life in Cincinnati, especially when the mighty Stillers are systematically in their face. At every moment when Cincy seems to rise from the ashes, the Steelers cut them down at the knees…sometimes literally.
It was such a promising campaign, that one in 2005, with Carson Palmer at the helm and Marvin Lewis in his third year (115). This was going to be their year. They were Super Bowl bound, until Steeler Kimo Van Oelhoffen broke Palmer’s leg in a low tackle. Cincy’s miracle season was over and Palmer got a rule named after him.
The Bengals loss must have been devastating to the so called good people of the so called Queen City, and to Marv Lewis personally, just as last year’s loss to another Steelers team wiped out the Bengal hopes, at the last breath. Surely, even Mr. Lewis must have thought he was going to get the hook. Instead he has been rewarded with another extension.
Maybe there is something I don’t know here. This is very probable, so let’s check in with some others.
“He’s won just enough to keep the wolves from the door” says Stan Savran of Root Sports, ESPN Pittsburgh Radio and former Pittsburgh PostGazette sports columnist. “And Mike Brown, being one of the top three cheapest NFL owners, doesn’t want to fire a guy under contract and have to pay two coaches.”
Then why give the guy three extensions?
“Mike Brown is enjoying the good times because there is such a difference from the way things were” says Pittsburgh TribuneReview’s Joe Starkey. “Cincinnati is one of the winningest teams in the league.”
And 07 in the playoffs.
“Well, I am surprised he was retained after last season” Starkey continues, “his players were out of control.”
You may remember the Bengal meltdown in the last minute of last year’s wild, wildcard game against Pittsburgh, with Vontaze Burfict and Pacman Jones losing their minds and taking 30 yards in stupid penalties that cost
Coach Lewis his first playoff win, on a Chris Boswell field goal. I mean, it was in the bag, and then….
“They sold out” says Savran, of the Bengals organization, “bringing in players of talent like Burfict but suspect of character.”
And the sleuth that is the PostGazette’s Gene Collier, who spent many days watching Lewis coaching the Pitt Panthers says “Marv’s career has been marked by all those who know how smart and innovative he is. He’s been a stabilizing presence in Cincinnati, and I think Mike Brown has shown him some welldeserved loyalty.” Gene picks Cincinnati to win the division.
Any chance that Marv is too nice to fire?
“The NFL alltime unemployment list is crowded with coaches too nice to fire,” says Collier. “It’s correct to say that what has happened to Marv in the postseason would get most coaches fired, but for Mike Brown, who has not made a lot of great choices in Cincinnati, Marvin Lewis is probably the best thing he’s ever done there and Marvin represents the way forward.”
So much for my theory.
You know, it’s not so easy replacing a head coach, unless you want to recycle the Norv Turners, Andy Reids, Jeff Fishers, Rex Ryans, John Foxs, Jack Del Rios and Mike Mularkeys.
*Bill Cowher coached the Steelers for 15 years and went to the big game twice, winning it once. That’s 15 years. In dog years that’s um…whatever.
As for the mystery that is Marvin Lewis’ longevity, well it’s almost cosmic. It certainly has life, apparently with much Mike Brown love…and right about now, he’s looking a bit like Donald Trump, except Marvin Lewis is actually…. a really nice guy.
Lee Kann is a film/radio/concert producer, and a writer. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org