Marvin Lewis’ Seat Should Be Heating Up


Nov 6, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis prior to the game against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not sure Marvin Lewis gets it.  His relentless willingness to keep doing things the same way tells us as much. As he continues utilize the same approach over and over, does he really expect a different result?  Does he expect this team to perform differently when it matters?

Following Thursday nights loss, obviously Lewis (and the Bengals) was disappointed.  Who wouldn’t be?  But Lewis’ reaction tells us that his plan going forward may be the same as always.

This much was obvious and is true.  Lewis does need to challenge his players to do better, but what’s important is how he chooses to make this happen.  It’s great that he acknowledges this along with the understanding that the Bengals let Cincinnati down, but acknowledgement doesn’t equal absolution nor solution.  What is more concerning is Lewis’ next comment.

What Lewis seems to be missing is that the Bengals may as well have fallen off a cliff in football terms.  It may not have been as quick as this, but the Bengals have been moving towards that proverbial cliff for some time.  Because of this, something needs to change.

But Marvin Lewis wants to stay the course according to Paul Dehner of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

"As for if a shake-up or attention-grabber needs to be made whether in personnel or otherwise, Marvin Lewis wasn’t looking in that direction.“No,” he said. “The attention-grabber is just that we’ll get back to work. We do things the way we’re supposed to do it most of the time, but tonight every time we didn’t do it right it was taken advantage of.”"

“Getting back to work” is fine and I don’t think a change in personnel is really even possible at this point in the season nor do I think this is the root-cause of the problem with this team.  This team’s mindset is the issue, not the personnel, or at least the personnel that could possibly be changed; there’s really no change that can be made at quarterback as I’m sure many fans are thinking.

A few weeks back following the Indianapolis debacle, Marvin Lewis said the team didn’t need a rallying cry.  I understand that getting angry isn’t going to help and execution will, but maybe this team does need a rallying cry of some sort.  Whatever Marvin chooses to do when leading this team into big moments is clearly not working.  Coaches use different approaches all the time depending on themselves and the types of players on their teams.  Maybe Marvin needs to constantly remind the Bengals of how much they are doubted, which could create a fire within his players.  Lewis’ calm and cool demeanor isn’t “amping” this team up and leaves them with an inability to fight through adversity.

Maybe it’s accountability that’s the problem.  For years, Lewis has been steadfastly loyal to his players, which in fairness, probably helped improve this franchise in some ways.  But it’s not going to help this team move forward at this point in their development.  These types of situations are all over the team.  Mike Nugent has been simply awful this year and yet Lewis hasn’t even brought in competition.  This is hardly the first year where Nugent has been less than stellar.  The same goes for Rey Maualuga in the past (Maualuga’s focus on run stopping has helped his play of late) and, of course, Andy Dalton.

When holding players accountable, Lewis has been inconsistent.  As pointed out by Andrea Hangst of the Bleacher Report, Lewis chose to bench Jeremy Hill for the second quarter of the Browns game due to his fumble.  I have to imagine this choice seemed odd and unjustified to players when mistakes haven’t resulted in these decisions in the past; in fact, it goes directly against the “stay the course” approach that Lewis undertakes.  It’s not as if Hill has had a ball-security issue this year as this was his first fumble and one that he did little to cause (see the replay).

Lewis needs to start consistently holding players accountable when underperforming.  It should make players less comfortable and force them to “sink or swim.”  Whatever the decision, Marvin Lewis cannot continue to do things the same way going forward.  With such a large sampling of underperforming during the big moments, what reason is there to believe that things will improve for the Bengals when utilizing the same approach?

Whatever the decision Lewis had better make it soon as his locker room is evidently growing frustrated.  George Iloka’s most recent statement made as much clear.

"“I think when it’s a prime time game we want to win so bad, when one thing goes wrong then some guys fold up and some guys are like (shoot), like damn.  We put too much emphasis on it. When it’s not a prime time game and we get down we’re not nervous it’s like all right let’s fight our way back in it.”"

This, along with Iloka’s thoughts on Andy Dalton.

"“It’s like damn here we go again,” Iloka. “That’s just how I feel. He threw a pick early, here we go again. Let’s knuckle up it’s going to be a dogfight.”"

Terence Newman feels this team isn’t mature and lacks an ability to respond to disappointing moments.

"“You got different personalities and whatnot. You just hope that everybody can gel. There’s different things that happen throughout the course of a game. You know there is going to be some negative things. The important thing is how do you handle those. I don’t think we’ve handled them thus far the three games we’ve got blown out. That’s definitely something we have to work on, handling the negative things.”"

From the outside it’s hard to identify exactly what this team needs to do when it comes to motivation.  But this much is clear, Marvin Lewis needs to begin changing his style and approach to his team.

Maybe he’s simply been too supportive of guys when underperforming (much in the way Braylon Edwards described Mark Sanchez’s situation with the Jets yesterday).  Maybe Lewis doesn’t understand how to create desperation in a team without making them unfocused; desperation doesn’t have to mean out-of-control play (see the Patriots against the Bengals this year).  Something needs to change with Marvin Lewis.  From an organizational perspective, the Bengals need to make clear that if unable to find other ways to lead this team, Lewis may be looking at a change himself.