Think about the totality of Brown’s time at the helm from the time of the death of his father Paul Brown in 1991, to Marvin’s arrival in 2003. Just for fun, let’s put this in cinematic terms. Was he Pearl Harbor bad, in that he took something that should have been great and turned it into a flaming hunk of poo? Or was he Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo bad, in that it was almost a comical kind of failure? (Bonus points there in this silly analogy for Breakin 2 not living up to the artistic mastery of its predecessor, while Mike could not live up to his legendary pops.) But perhaps the best allegory would be Plan Nine from Outer Space bad, in that Mike Brown’s general awfulness would be appreciated and studied for generations to come.
And then, in 2003, here comes Marvin riding into town, leading Cincinnati back to respectability. The Bengals were no longer a punch line. Lewis was able to accomplish all this with Mike Brown still serving as owner/president, a feat many thought could never be done.
The question then follows: Has Marvin Lewis saved the Bengals from another decade of endless 5-11 and 4-12 seasons? Or has he been unable to develop and take talented teams to the next level? I pose these queries because the “Fire Marvin” grumblings have begun amidst this three game slide. If the losing streak worsens and the season really goes off the rails, then those grumblings will turn to shouts.
Look, I’m as critical of Lewis as anybody. That decision to challenge the second-down play to try and save two yards against Pittsburgh was just horrid, and I’ve previously touched on a number of different times Lewis made bad choices in deciding to go for field goals. His in game strategy can definitely be brutal at times.
But you know what was even more brutal? The Bengals without Marvin Lewis. I’m certainly not saying we fans should be happy with mediocrity, or we should lower expectations. What I am saying is to remember, if this season gets ugly and the calls for Lewis to be removed get louder, just how bad Cincinnati was previously. Also remember who would be choosing that new coach, and how much that person likes to pinch pennies. Be careful what you wish for.