Even before the Cincinnati Bengals lost their last two games, the win over Oakland in the home finale two weeks ago probably provided the surest sign yet Marvin Lewis should be both celebrated and fired.
Clubbing the worst team in the league kept hopes of an 8-8 season alive — obvious fool’s gold — but still nothing to get anyone too excited.
Eight-losses seasons were worth celebrating when Lewis arrived in 2003 (and practically a dream in the decade before), but now they are purely disappointing for Cincinnati.
(At least for those Bengals fans who were around to see it.)
A year ago, the fan revolt that had already started and promised to grow made firing Lewis seemingly a no-brainer, but owner Mike Brown saw otherwise.
Making the move now at least gives reason to believe Brown actually values pride over comfort.
I say that because familiarity was pretty much the only reason given for re-signing Lewis last year.
Sure, he might be a once-good coach who lost his touch years ago, but at least he gets along with the owner!
That Lewis’ sole purpose was to bridge the gap between Brown and the players on the field was further driven home when they swapped out much of the rest of the staff then couched the 2018 season as the start of another new era even though they still had the same head coach.
But they really, truly finally reached the point of no return this season.
With his team repeatedly embarrassed, twice by the team named after his father, it was almost impossible to see how Brown could give Lewis yet another year to disappoint the dwindling group of fans he hadn’t already driven away.
“Almost” was a necessary qualifier only because the same could be said 365 days ago, but now it really happened.
Perhaps the next coach can do something about the lack of discipline (and more recently poor drafting) that undercut the potential to be a contender for too long.
But like I said at the beginning, there is still reason to feel good about what Lewis did during his tenure.
Without Lewis there was never even a feeling they could be a contender, and that’s not nothing. It’s also not good enough to give him any more chances to get this franchise over the hump.
Yes they’ve had significant injuries this season, but that doesn’t excuse the mental errors — and healthy or not, there’s still no evidence Lewis could have gotten the Bengals past the first round of the playoffs anyway.
The 1990s are long gone. They aren’t coming back. Marvin Lewis ushered Mike Brown’s franchise (which coincidentally or not tanked as soon as his legendary father died in 1991) into maturity, but Lewis has done all he can do.
It’s time for something new. There’s enough to work with they can continue to go into every season with at least some hope of making the playoffs. But this is a crucial offseason based on the improvement of the Browns and the Ravens getting a jump on their next era by drafting quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Aside from the discipline issue, the new coach needs to figure out what to do at quarterback with Andy Dalton coming off another season-ending injury and having proven over and over again he’s good enough to win with but not a true franchise quarterback.
With more but still not enough talent on the defense and offensive line, 2018 was always going to be a transition year.
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They should have done it with a new coach, but maybe by moving on now they have at least minimized the damage of keeping Lewis too long.
Whatever the case, the deed is done.
Come to praise Marvin Lewis — and to bury his tenure.