An era of Bengals football has come to an end.
Despite lifting the franchise from unfathomable doldrums almost two decades ago, Cincinnati has parted ways with long-time head coach Marvin Lewis. Lewis has held this head-coaching post longer than nearly every other active coach in football. In 16 years, Lewis went 131-122-3 with seven playoff appearances and no postseason victories.
While a lack of postseason success may ultimately define Lewis’s tenure, it’s important to remember how far adrift the Bengals were before his arrival. Prior to his hiring in 2003, Cincinnati had last made the playoffs under Sam Wyche in 1990. A string of coaches, including Dave Shula, Dick LeBeau and Bruce Coslet all tried—and failed—to make headway in a series of divisional alignments that belonged, over the years to the Steelers, Oilers and Jaguars.
With Lewis at the helm, Cincinnati was almost instantly functional, winning their first division title in 2005.
Throughout his tenure, Lewis’s Bengals have been both high flying in the days of Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and low-hitting in the current era of Vontaze Burfict. The coach was never afraid—and apparently rarely prevented—from taking in players with checkered pasts, a personnel quirk that earned his teams a certain reputation over the years.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Lewis gradually ascend into a personnel role of some kind in the NFL. The theory was bandied about during this time last year, when Lewis and the Bengals last flirted with a potential breakup.
As for the final judgment on Lewis’s tenure, it may take a decade to properly digest and understand the successes and failures of the 60-year-old, who won a Super Bowl as the defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens back in 2000. Will the next head coach spill the franchise back into laughable irrelevance, or did Lewis squander the prime of some exceptional talent, like receiver A.J. Green and Geno Atkins? Bengals fans may end up missing Lewis, or wondering why the franchise waited this long to make a change in the first place.
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