Maybe this was a human moment in the typically callous world of the NFL.
Maybe Marvin Lewis and the Bengals were fed up with each other for some time, went through divorce proceedings and decided they were still meant to be together. Maybe both parties took a look at other options, really considered it, and chose the comfort of a familiar face. Maybe, after Lewis signed a two-year extension Tuesday that was unfathomable just a week ago, which will keep him in Cincinnati for a total of 17 seasons, the most sensible explanation is that life and relationships are complicated.
That can satisfy some of us. But it probably won’t do much for a puzzled collection of Bengals fans who have watched Lewis’ future with the team pinball throughout the season. As it stands right now, analysts and insiders are pitching this as a return with conditions: major changes on offense, defense and personnel to come. Maybe this is a good thing, but was personnel really the problem in the first place?
Lewis’ tenure with the Bengals draws out some strong opinions. For some, his seven playoff appearances, four division titles and just five losing seasons have earned a lifetime appointment of sorts. The thought? His success has created a world where people forget just how bad the Bengals were before his arrival. He transformed a franchise. He fostered a legitimate head coaching tree. He developed Pro Bowl talent.
For others, he is part of the problem in the NFL. He represents fear. Owners can be risk averse. There is something to be said about running a business with a predictable product and profit margin. Let all the other teams gamble on Chip Kelly, Sean McVay, Bruce Arians or Vance Joseph. We will take more wins than losses (about 5.5 percent more wins than losses in Lewis’ tenure) and hope that this startlingly long playoff losses streak comes to an end at some point. (Lewis’ teams have not yet won a playoff game, going a perfect 0-7 in the postseason. It is the longest streak under one current coach and the second-longest playoff losing streak in football next to the Lions.)
Maybe it’s complicated for Bengals fans, too. Maybe the little thrills they’ve sustained during the Lewis era make having him around worth the while; the ignited rivalry with Pittsburgh makes them loyal to their head coach. But maybe, after dangling a glimpse of the coaching carousel for the first time in nearly two decades—the thought of fresh faces and perspectives—Bengals ownership has finally found the tipping point. Maybe it will stop being so easy for Bengals owners to sell "complicated" on Sunday.
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WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: Greg Bishop on the theme of 2017 across the NFL: Pain...Benoit on the quiet coaching candidate making waves in Arizona...King on John Madden from the Sports Illustrated Vault: Nov. 26, 1990.
1. Carson Palmer, who quietly built a career that at least merits Hall of Fame consideration, announced his retirement on Tuesday.
2. Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley was injured outside of a bar near Heinz Field when a scuffle reportedly involving his wife broke out.
3. Jon Gruden finally goes on the record about the Raiders coaching job. Turns out he thinks he might be involved in their interview process.
4. The love affair between the 49ers' front office and fan base with Jimmy Garoppolo has only just begun.
5. As we enter another long offseason of endless Kirk Cousins rumors, Jay Gruden sounds kind of meh about his franchise tagged passer.
6. Nick Saban hasn't gotten many NFL head coaching rumors directed his way, but he did get pummeled on the sideline by his own quarterback on Monday.
7. Philip Rivers may have missed the playoffs, but at least he got to zing the Raiders on the way out of 2017.
10. The Giants are kicking off the process to find their next head coach. Will they follow the Bengals plan and rehire Ben McAdoo?
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Phish dominated Madison Square Garden on New Years Eve, as expected. Full show audio, including a version of You Enjoy Myself for the ages.
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