Marvin Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals: It’s complicated

The Cincinnati Bengals’ winningest head coach reportedly isn’t coming back next season, and nobody seems surprised or unhappy about it. 

What a world, huh? 

In case you missed it, ESPN reported Sunday morning Marvin Lewis has decided not to make any effort to return as head coach of the Bengals next season

His contract is up, and he isn’t going to seek a new deal.

RELATED: Bengals crushed by Vikings

After passing on a chance to deny the report to CBS and telling the Bengals Radio Network he had “no comment about the future,” he told reporters in Minnesota the report was not true. 

Regardless, I’ve been operating under the assumption his time is about up for a while -- whether it is his choice or ownership’s. 

The embarrassing loss to the Steelers two weeks ago certainly seemed to seal the deal. 

Not only was it too familiar in the way it went down, it also basically eliminated them from playoff contention. 

Entering the season, I felt like he had to win a playoff game to justify a return. 

So, now what? 

We’ll have time later to discuss who should be his replacement. Two who come to my mind are Frank Reich (Eagles offensive coordinator) and Todd Wash (Jaguars defensive coordinator) because of the work they’ve done with those units this season. 

As far as Lewis, what he did for the Bengals should be greatly appreciated, and that was the general tenor of the initial reaction I saw. 

I don’t know how many of the Bengals problems are his fault, but he doesn’t seem to have the solutions, either. 

Assuming the end really is at hand after two more games, his legacy will be positive but complicated. 

He made a moribund franchise respectable, though the way his teams acted on the field often wasn’t. 

Again, how much of that was his fault? 

He’s dealing with adults who are responsible for their own behavior, but there also seemed to be little accountability for bonehead plays and unnecessary penalties — even when they clearly hurt the team’s chances of winning. 

The coach needs to strike some sort of balance there, and Lewis never really seemed to even in the best of times. 

More of that would have been overlooked if he won a postseason game, but such is life. 

PHOTOS: The Marvin Lewis era in Cincinnati

He got more than enough opportunities to change that narrative, and he never did. 

Still, he’ll leave the franchise in much better shape than he found it. 

They have a pretty solid roster with a glaring weakness on the offensive line and an interesting situation at quarterback. 

The defense is good and not far from being really good. 

Special teams have been middle-of-the-road. 

He basically rebuilt this team twice, the second time better than the first. 

That’s pretty remarkable. 

How often has it ever happened before? 

We’ll always wonder “What if” about 2015 given the Andy Dalton injury and the meltdown against the Steelers in the playoffs. 

Last season was pretty much a lost one, but this one not so much. 

Nobody but the Patriots makes the playoffs every year, and 2017 delivered some exciting young players to the Bengals roster. 

Next will Cincinnati get an exciting new coach? 

Time will tell. 

I would advise everyone who loves the Orange and Black to say thanks to Marvin Lewis — then feel free to dream about bigger and better things. 

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