The Cincinnati Bengals failed to impress this season. They looked lackluster, for the most part. And with every loss or bad performance, the finger pointed straight towards Marvin Lewis. However, despite back-to-back losing seasons, he could actually be the only one who can turn the franchise around quickly.
When the report came towards the end of the season that Marvin Lewis wanted to pursue other opportunities, fans and the league thought, finally, Cincinnati would move on. Yeah, that didn’t happen. Instead, Lewis signed a two-year extension. And while initial reactions felt like the Bengals would continue the losing streak, let’s realize that Marvin has been in this position multiple times and has given fans what they wanted.
Lewis took over a team in 2003 that was the laughing-stock of the entire NFL. His signing didn’t necessarily give fans great excitement. Following the lost decade of the 1990s, fans just wanted to see what the new coach could do and hopefully do it fast.
Lewis got to it quickly and started to piece together talent through the draft. In just two short seasons, the Bengals won the AFC North and made it to the playoffs for the first time since 1991.
Fast forward to 2008 and the Bengals are 4-11-1. Cincinnati is calling for Lewis to be fired. And then, out of nowhere, Cincinnati wins the division in 2009. They get beat by the Jets in the playoffs and Lewis gets an extension.
Another leap in time
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Fast forwarded again and the Bengals are in rebuild mode. Lewis spearheads a new regime and goes to five consecutive playoff appearances. Every time the Bengals have a down year, it doesn’t take the Bengals very long to get back to the playoffs. The longest drought that the Bengals have had under Lewis was three years between 2006-2008.
With 2017 marking the second consecutive year the Bengals have missed the playoffs since the Meltdown at Paul Brown, it’s time for the Bengals to retool and get back to where they were. History repeats. Therefore, 2018 will either see the Bengals progress or remain middle of the pack for another season. However, Lewis’ new contract will give him enough time to figure out if history truly repeats itself.
So far, the coaching staff overhaul has been pretty good. The Bengals have finally brought in different coaches from the outside that will provide ideas on how to do things differently.
Under Paul Guenther, the Bengals defense finished 18th overall last year while also ranking 30th against the run, 20th in interceptions and dead last in fumble recoveries. In comparison, the Bengals new defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin, led the Detriot Lions to second in the league in fumble recoveries and fourth in interceptions. Overall the Lions ranked 27th, but that has more to do with the overall talent on the Lions roster
With arriving in the Queen City, Austin will now inherit a deep defensive line that can get after the passer, an amazing talent in Vontaze Burfict to run the defense and a secondary that features four former first-round picks. To make matters even better, Austin won’t have to figure out if his cornerbacks can play or not. William Jackson III was rated one of the best shutdown corners by Pro Football Focus, Darqueze Dennard led the team in tackles and interceptions and Dre Kirkpatrick is the top corner on the team.
Austin, however, will most likely have to make a decision about keeping Adam Jones. The guy’s past his prime. However, the Bengals seem to be in a better position defensively with Austin calling the shots.
Cincy brought in Bob Bicknell to coach the receivers. Bicknell brings in years of experience as well as familiarity with Bill Lazor’s offense. Personally, I’m a little skeptical. While these coaches have success together, Lazor’s offensive coaching didn’t overly excite me after he took over the play-calling duties.
Perhaps, this offseason will give Lazor time to implant his own philosophy and fully throw out Ken Zampeses’ playbook. But, Lazor’s numbers while being the OC in Miami also don’t impress me much.
The Best thing about the offense this year is perhaps bringing in former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman coach Frank Pollack. While in Dallas, Pollack coached one of the top O-lines in the league.
As I’ve been saying, the Bengals need to channel their inner Dallas Cowboys and draft lineman early and often. Hopefully, Pollack will help in selecting and developing the talent that’s already there. Marvin Lewis & Co. are in a good position right now. It’s time to take the AFC North by storm again. And if anyone knows how…it’s Lewis.