Lewis: Change Needed for Me to Stay


Yes, Chad Johnson getting himself benched — whatever the reason — was dumb, irresponsible and yet another reason for fans to criticize a player who has been a genuine horse’s arse since last January. But nfl.com’s Thomas George is on the money when he says:

"There are at least ocho-cinco reasons why the Bengals have been stuck in futility this season. Much of the reason is counting on players like Johnson whom they cannot count on.But there is more."

And yeah, he goes there.

"Take away the starting quarterback from any NFL team and struggles will arise. But the Bengals players look at New England and see how they have handled the loss of Tom Brady and wonder why things have collapsed without Palmer? New England shows it can be done. Why not the Bengals?A Bengals player answered, requesting anonymity: “Everywhere you go in this league things are run differently. That is the million-dollar question — what is wrong with us? It didn’t just happen. Things have been going on here for awhile. We had one good season here three years ago and some people did not know how to handle that success. We all can do more. Yes, the head coach can do more. But sometimes his hands are tied behind his back by ownership. And sometimes if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. The wind is blowing? So what, still do it your way. At some point you have to do it your way, and have no regrets.”This dance between ownership and coach, between Bengals owner Mike Brown and Lewis, is an odd one. Brown declined comment.It is clear that Brown makes final personnel decisions (see the comeback trail of Bengals receiver Chris Henry). It is clear that Brown makes final financial decisions. It is clear that Brown has signed Lewis through the 2010 season. It is clear that Brown will likely not eat the millions due Lewis and dump him after this season.What is unclear is what the future holds for both. And for the Bengals.“It’s not a shock to say that we have to make some changes for the future for me to remain here,” Lewis said."

That’s a very, very interesting comment from the head coach. George is right that Brown will be reluctant to eat Lewis’ contract, a fact that might actually give the coach some leverage in terms of getting the changes he wants. What changes might Lewis want? Clearly, he has had it with Brown’s “redeemer” act, where he keeps drafting troubled players like Henry and Odell Thurman. And I can’t help but think he would have been happy to send Chad to D.C. in return for one sure and one possible first round pick last April. That would have given him more ammo to build the defense and rid the locker room of a perennial distraction at the same time. And it’s hard to believe that Lewis was in any hurry to cut Willie Anderson just to shave a couple million bucks off of a hundred-million-plus payroll.

George dances around the point a bit — and after all, he is writing for the official NFL web site, so props for even broaching the subject — but the answer to fixing that “odd dance” between ownership and coach is the introduction of a new dance partner: a general manager. This isn’t news to anyone who follows the team even casually. The current state of the team can be traced directly to personnel decisions, from poor draft choices to free agency signings (and non-signings) to bungled trades to open conflict between coaching and management over players.

Again: nothing new here. But it’s worth noting that the last time it got so bad in Cincy that the league was forced to take notice of the poor play of the team and chide Mike Brown into changes was 2002. It took 11 years of bad play to get to that point. Now, we’ve only had three since our last winning season. So, that’s progress, I suppose.