Cincinnati Bengals season, leadership on line at Cleveland

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 27: Head coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals looks on against the Baltimore Ravens in the first quarter at M
BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 27: Head coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals looks on against the Baltimore Ravens in the first quarter at M /

Marvin Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals will invade Cleveland to play the Browns, on Sunday. There will be more than winning a game at stake.

It seems, since Week 1, there has been a certain tag attached to Cincinnati Bengals games. Each battle has become a “must-win” scenario. The season is still young, but a loss at Cleveland will put the Bengals in a hole that could be hard to overcome. Not many teams can climb out of an 0-3 dilemma. But, being 0-4 is even worse. Taking an L from the rebuilding Browns could seal the fate of Marvin Lewis & Co.

When the 2017 season began to pick up steam, before the NFL Draft, there were already signs of impending doom. The 2016 campaign was a huge bust. Yes, there were injuries to deal with. But, those issues are part of running a successful franchise. Sadly, it’s a business. When a player goes down, there should be enough information about the backups to keep things moving along. Lewis wasn’t able to do it.

The Bengals ended the season with a win over the Baltimore Ravens. But, that may have been a W posted over a team that really didn’t care. Baltimore was playing for nothing more than pride.

An Embarrassment 

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Hue Jackson has become a lightweight legend in the Cincinnati area. He has been added to the small circle of former coaches who should have become a Bengals head coach. So far, his tenure in Cleveland isn’t looking all that great. His record is a staggering 1-18, up north by the lake. But, things can turn around. Yet, the first game of the Battle of Ohio is an important one.

"“I’m not discouraged,” said Jackson. “I’m disappointed because I know what we’re trying to accomplish and I see signs of things. It’s just not happening fast enough. We’ve got to go back and coach better. It starts with us. Then we got to make sure players are getting it and getting it right.”"

Sound familiar?

On the other hand, Lewis can’t afford to take a beating either.

Restless In Cincinnati

Lewis is in a pickle because he’s running on borrowed time. The Bengals need to come out firing on all cylinders or his already shaky reputation will be shot to Hades. Fans are restless. There were promises of big things during the Bengals’ 50th anniversary. Unfortunately, all they’ve received is a ton of excuses and injured players. Tyler Eifert is still missing in action and John Ross is looking like another bad investment.

Let’s face the facts. If the Bengals lose to the Cleveland Browns, it will be like taking a trip back to the beginning. It could mark the moment that brass should seriously start looking for player upgrades and–yes–a new head coach.

Time Is Running Out

Since the awe-inspiring 2015 team was knocked from the playoffs, there has been a funk over this team. Say what you will, but the Bengals seem to be enduring the fallout of that near miss. Frankly, Lewis should have been fired that day.

There was no reason the Steelers should have won that game and there was no reason Mike Brown should have kept Lewis as his leader of men. But, Brown is loyal to a fault. In business, there are times when being nice will get you nowhere. That’s what has happened to this franchise. Everyone has been so easy-going. Now, the Bengals are playing Cleveland with their backs firmly against the wall.

Next: Finding Success Without Eifert

There are a few players that should step up on Sunday. But, this really isn’t about them. This has come down to decisions that weren’t made and bad moves that were made. It doesn’t end with the loss of Andrew Whitworth, Kevin Zeitler, Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones. It’s become a sad story that seems to never end. Furthermore, the fans can see the ending before brass even cares. Maybe it’s time for more than an offensive coordinator change.