The Future of Marvin Lewis and the Bengals
Dec 14, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis versus the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Bengals won 30-0. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
As much as we all like to joke about not mentioning the word “playoffs,” the truth is, the playoffs are upon us. The Cincinnati Bengals are going back to the postseason for a franchise best fourth straight year with a 10-5-1 record; a very nontraditional one.
The Bengals are still an enigma. Their offense is good enough, but not great, and their defense bends, but doesn’t break. The bottom line is, the Bengals enter this postseason as the same old story: Andy Dalton can’t win in the postseason and neither can Marvin Lewis. What happens if they go to Indianapolis and lose to the Colts? What happens if they win?
Coach Lewis was brought back for a 12th season on a one-year deal. This extension was signed by the organization with an expectation, win into the playoffs and compete for a Super Bowl. Marvin Lewis has completed the first part of this, getting to the playoffs, which, until a fateful Monday Night against the Denver Broncos, seemed in doubt. Now, the Bengals are in the playoffs and very well could beat the Indianapolis Colts, or could just as plausibly come away 0-4 with Andy Dalton as quarterback.
Will winning one playoff game really mean everything for this organization? T.J. Yates won a playoff game, so did Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, and plenty of other quarterbacks. One playoff game is no longer the threshold it used to be for this organization. In 2012, winning one playoff game was acceptable, but this organization needs a big playoff push, like beating the Patriots at New England, or even the Broncos in Denver. An unconvincing win in Indianapolis, followed by a blowout in New England or Denver will not satisfy most fans.
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The biggest problem is, how long will the window in Cincinnati stay open? The average NFL career is roughly three years, and the Bengals may not have this bevy of talent for much longer. Also, if teams are generally equal throughout the NFL and are separated by an elite quarterback and elite head coach, then ask yourself, do the Bengals have either?
The career of Marvin Lewis and further career of Andy Dalton have now reached “a head” and will come down to this Sunday. Win, move on, and continue to prove why building this team the past four years and promoting from within is the correct move. Lose, go home, and more than likely see the end of the Marvin Lewis era.