Sports Today: The Bengals did what now?


Back in the saddle today after nearly two weeks of nearly not working at all. Did I miss anything? 

I logged back in 12 hours or so early to weigh in on the stunning announcement Marvin Lewis and the Bengals will be staying together for at least another year or two

This is inexplicable from both sides. 

RELATED: Bringing back Marvin Lewis boggles the mind

I’m usually not one who favors change for the sake of change, but I’m willing to make an exception in this case. 

I might be more surprised Lewis wanted to keep working for the Bengals than that the Bengals wanted to keep him in their employ. 

He’s obviously an accomplished coach who has done plenty of good for the organization, but he seemed pretty worn down most of this year. 

Beyond that, there are the frequent questions about who is really running things from a football standpoint. They boil down to this: How often is he saddled with people he doesn’t want on his team or coaching staff, and how much does that affect the ups and downs of the Bengals under his watch? 

When things go wrong, oftentimes there’s an implication the guilty party isn’t one of Marvin’s guys, though that is always open to interpretation. 

There was speculation he would only stay if he got more control (which might be better than a new coach having even less, I admit, but that’s pretty far out there in the speculation weeds), but Lewis indicated to the team website that isn’t the case. 

In providing the team’s second surprising finish in 48 hours, Brown and Lewis stayed together after hammering out what appeared to be primarily coaching personnel. Issues such as roster control and salaries for assistants apparently weren’t part of the discussion.

“(Brown) has his input that he feels in some ways strong about,” Lewis said. “He has those prerogatives encouraging me certain ways. But he doesn’t interfere with me coaching the team.”

So, what gives? 

Well I don’t think Adam Schefter just made up that report about Lewis’ intentions a few weeks ago. He might have been misled by a usually reliable source, but I suspect there was at least a lot of truth to it at the time. 

As I mentioned then, the trouble with breaking news is it sometimes meants reporting something before it’s officially official and things change on the way to the finish line. 

Maybe Lewis really was intent on leaving and had started assessing his other options. 

Maybe he didn’t find anything more appealing than his current job — and maybe winning those last two games really made him (and/or Mike Brown) more optimistic about the future down on the Ohio River so one or both sides were more willing to talk reunion than they thought they would be in early December. 

Or maybe Brown really does just love continuity that much more than winning and selling tickets… 

Let’s not be all gloom and doom here, though. 

Once we get over the shock of this decision and the disappointment of not being able to find out what the Bengals would look like under new management, let’s remember this is a roster with a lot to like. 

They’re stuck with an inconsistent quarterback, but the skill positions look loaded — especially if John Ross actually plays next season 

The defense had another solid year, but some more pieces are still needed over there — namely another corner, a play-making safety and more athleticism at linebacker. 

The biggest question coming out of 2017 is the same as it was going in: What are they going to do with the offensive line? 

A new-look lineup, assembled out of desperation, actually looked pretty good the last two weeks. Was the fool’s gold? We’ll have to wait and see… 

  

Meanwhile, Ohio State beat USC in a Cotton Bowl that meant nothing and did pretty poorly in the ratings. 

It was a pretty terrible game that provided a reminder just how talented the Buckeyes are on defense and how clueless they were on offense more often than not. 

The first year of the Kevin Wilson experiment was pretty much a failure, though I am more than willing to place all of the coaching blame on Urban Meyer for this. At least it exonerates Ed Warinner and Tim Beck to a certain extent, so they’ve got that going for them. 

I say this because the problems from day one of the Meyer era in Columbus have been the same: Meyer’s version of the spread offense is outdated and works only thanks to the talent advantage he almost always enjoys over the team on the other sideline (and sometimes not even then). 

RELATED: Urban Meyer says program has momentum after Cotton Bowl win

Of course, J.T. Barrett could have done Meyer a solid and repaid the coach’s loyalty by being a more consistent passer or dynamic runner, but that ended up not being in the cards. 

The Texan is still one of the all-time greats at Ohio State who I’m sure will be remembered more fondly in the future by some fans than he is now (which is not to say most aren’t already appreciative of what they just watched), but it’s fair to be excited about what the offense will look next year with a new quarterback since there’s no reason to think the offense will change. 

READ MORE: 7 things to know about Ohio State’s QB history

Dwayne Haskins, who might have to try hard to lose the starting job in the spring if anyone else is going to be QB1 next fall, is more talented than Barrett and might be able to get the ball to those talented guys in more advantageous spots, so the offense could become more dangerous simply via his arm, but time will tell… 

The College Football Playoff semifinals gave us a thrilling game and a dud, as expected. 

I thought Oklahoma would be too much for Georgia, but kudos to the Bulldogs for hanging in there after (probably) breaking Baker Mayfield’s ribs. 

Alabama’s beatdown of Clemson could be seen coming from a mile away considering the Crimson Tide are probably about as good as they were last year while Clemson is definitely worse. Even with Deshaun Watson at the controls, the Tigers had to cheat to win by one point in the last seconds, so you can do that math. 

Also it probably didn’t hurt Nick Saban’s team to have a month to heal and hear about how they didn’t belong in the final four, not to mention that whole revenge factor thing… 

I could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it up with some college basketball. 

The Dayton Flyers suffered a pretty bad loss at Duquesne on Dec. 30 and face red-hot St. Bonaventure tonight at home

Since an NCAA tournament at-large bid is out of the question now, there aren’t really any must-win games at this point in the season, but it would seem Anthony Grant’s team needs to get some positive momentum going sooner than later if they want to end up with a respectable record. 

The first-year Flyers coach’s substitution patterns continue to be interesting, but perhaps he is playing the long game. His way or the highway could pay off in the long run — if the majority of the guys in the gym buy in…

Meanwhile, Wright State has won three in a row and six out of its last even. 

Coach Scott Nagy’s insistence on playing his way does seem to be paying off, and so is getting his roster closer to full strength. Next up are a pair of games north of the border — at Detroit Mercy on Friday night and at Oakland on Sunday afternoon. 

Miami began play in a wide-open MAC race with a 77-72 win at Bowling Green last night. 

The 8-6 RedHawks bounced back from a 72-59 loss at Ohio State, where Chris Holtmann’s team is at least worth being interested in again after several years of blah for the Buckeye. 


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