Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

16 Jan 2010

Marvin Lewis Named Coach Of The Year

I'm kind of split on this one. On the one hand, Lewis did lead his team to the playoffs despite a lot of tragedy off the field, and the six-linemen, power running set he used was a good example of a coach getting the most he could out of limited talent. On the other hand, the Bengals never really were that good this year, they've only had one really good year under Lewis, and he still had some of the worst clock management in the league.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 16 Jan 2010

47 comments, Last at 18 Jan 2010, 10:33pm by Kibbles


by Gus (not verified) :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 2:28pm

I can't say I'm even split. I think Payton or Caldwell would've been a much better choice.

by The Ninjalectual :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 2:54pm

I would vomit if Caldwell won, after what he did in week 16...

"Just look at that pumpkin."
-John Madden, looking at the moon.

by Gus (not verified) :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 4:40pm

I'd say a first year coach going 14-2 merits some consideration.

by Brendan Scolari :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 10:09pm

Agreed. Thank God it wasn't Caldwell.

by Bobman :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 6:05am

Caldwell's best work was probably the off-season hiring of a new DC and ST coach, plus he kept things steady with the pseudo-retirements/promotions of the OC and OLC. More aggressive than his very successful predecessor on O and D, 14 wins could easily have been 16 if they didn't have a higher goal in mind.

I don't see how making a controversial, but eminently justifiable decision (you see how lively that formerly injured D looked against the Ravens?) negates all the other good. The team with the best record in football was picked by many to win about 10 games, and others to miss the playoffs entirely. One week/one decision (that was not Caldwell's alone) does not undo an entire season and off-season of excellence.

Caldwell would have been a very reasonable choice and his low vote total was media punishment for him taking away their 16-0 story-lines. As if he owed them easy subjects. waah waah waah.

And FO readers' upset stomachs are not, thank God, one of the voting criteria (yet).

What were the big changes in Payton's world? Foregoing $250k to hire Gregg Williams was pretty huge and smart. Norv? No effing way--if starting off rocky and finishing with a lot of consecutive wins gets the prize, why didn't Dungy win COTY last year? Lewis was a reasonable choice in my mind because of the huge turnaround despite a lot of turmoil.

by C (not verified) :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 1:37pm

Yeah I think both Caldwell and Peyton deserve it more than Starvin Marvin.

Caldwell deserves it more, but come on, what did he really do? We all know why that team wins, and we all know that as long as he had them on auto pilot that they'd win. Yeah yeah yeah, they lost Bob Sanders ( but he's overrated IMO) and every team has injuries...

I forgot that fact that Sean Payton took a pay cut to end up bringing in Greg Williams which is totally why his is where they are.

Marvin Lewis is not even an average coach. He's a broken clock that's been right twice in a day ( or decade)... He doesn't get the criticism he deserves because he's a "nice guy". I think this move was the writers trying to give Marvin some job security.

by tonic889 (not verified) :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 2:31pm

Marv was definitely not the best coach in the league this year, but no one did more with less this year than Lewis.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 2:56pm

My first thought was much the same as Vince, but then I tried to come up with another choice and just couldn't come up with a better one.

Payton would be all right, but I don't think he's definitively a better choice. I wouldn't have an issue with Belichick, actually, but it was impossible that he would win it following THE DUMBEST DECISION IN WORLD HISTORY THAT PROBABLY WILL EVENTUALLY CAUSE THE EARTH TO EXPLODE (according to the media and perhaps inflated a little bit). Caldwell wouldn't be bad but he had no chance because he followed Saint Dungy and thus anything good he does is proof of Dungy's greatness. Is there anyone else who can even be a candidate?

by C (not verified) :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 3:06pm

Norv: but he's an idiot according to the media and can do no right
Childress: but he's an idiot according to the media ( and really is an idiot)
Wade Phillips: but he's an idiot according to the media

The Saints weren't picked by most to do much this year, but went much of the year undefeated, they won some big games, including a pasting of the Patriots... Most people have a sense that they were overrated, but the Bengals were the same only they didn't have as good of a record, and had some close wins ( where as the Saints dismantled the Patriots on National TV).

It's the feel sorry for Marvin Lewis vote. Also having that "making of the team" show probably helped the Bengals a tiny bit as people got a look at the team and such. If the NFL Network had a show about the Saints this year and Henry didn't kill himself then Peyton wins the award.

by darthgoofy :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 5:05pm

I just want the record to show that not many expected the Colts to do much this year, either. I think some of the media have really, really short-term short-term memory, because it seems as if many of them are currently saying that they are upset that the Colts didn't try for 16-0, when most of the MSM predicted the Colts to go anywhere from 8-8 to 10-6. I'd say that could merit Caldwell the CotY, but I understand why he didn't win (or more appropriately, why someone else did win).

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 7:49pm

Good points all. I actually think you could make a good case for Norv deserving it most.

by Brendan Scolari :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 10:11pm

What did Belichick do to deserve the award? 10-6 and a first roudn playoff exit is nothing special.

by B :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 12:13am

That would be the same result as Marvin Lewis, though.

by RickD :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 12:22pm

ding ding ding!

And the Pats had the harder schedule.

by C (not verified) :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 1:39pm

I was more impressed with what Bellicheck did last year, and for the record, the DVOA saying Brady has the best year is flawed and it makes me angry to hear that and for even 1 person would believe that Brady had the best year this year.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 2:53am

Then obviously the award should go to whomever wins the Super Bowl, since according to you the only criteria is performance on the season and you say that postseason performance matters.

I wouldn't have a problem with Belichick winning the award in literally any year since he's been in New England. I didn't say he should win it; just that I wouldn't have a problem with it.

by C (not verified) :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 3:00pm

If the Chris Henry incident never happened, I doubt Marvin Lewis would win. I guess he won because before the season started it was very possible he'd be fired... his team went to the playoffs... and one of his players died...

I guess this boosts his job security because if the Bengals go 7-9 or worse next year and people see the same old bungles then it will be hard to fire the 1 year removed "coach of the year".

Peyton/Caldwell both deserve this award more.

by Keith Olbermann is a moron (not verified) :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 3:55pm

I assume you meant Peyton, the coach of the Colts rather than Payton, the coach of the Saints.

As far as Caldwell is concerned, don't you actually have to coach to be Coach of the Year?

by Keith Olbermann is a moron (not verified) :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 3:56pm

I assume you meant Peyton, the coach of the Colts rather than Payton, the coach of the Saints.

As far as Caldwell is concerned, don't you actually have to coach to be Coach of the Year?

by Keith Olbermann is a moron (not verified) :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 3:57pm

Sorry for the double post.

by John (not verified) :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 5:53pm

That's ok, it was just as moronic the 2nd time around.

Caldwell did a great job this year. There are any number of coaches which failed to reach 14-0. Heck, 31 of them, last I checked. And over the last 50 years, quite a few more than that.

He took over a good team, didn't disrupt it too much, yet integrated a new DC. He dealt with the loss of our #2 WR, our #1 SS, an injury list as long as your arm; he didn't get lambasted for stupid clock management - in fact, the team set a record for 4th quarter comebacks, last I checked.

Oh, yeah, and 14-0.

Maybe he didn't deserve CotY, but he sure coached a season that most other coaches in the history of the league would be envious of.

It's amazing how much the Colts' reality gets mangled by conventional wisdom. Rust. Caldwell is a caretaker. Everyone picked them to do well this year. Manning's a choker. The O-line is the sole reason Peyton takes so few sacks.

Fortunately, Jim Irsay and Bill Polian aren't swayed by idiotic conventional wisdom.

by Bobman :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 5:48am

And neither will a shiny chunk of metal that looks like a football exploding from an obelisk. He and the team will happily trade that gaudy 16-0 trophy everyone gets for the other one.

If Caldwell had a rat's ass at home in a box, he probably would not give it. And if he did... I'd be a little concerned about his, you know, mental state.

by Illmatic74 :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 3:07pm

Was he given the award twice?

by Hurt Bones :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 3:16pm

Part of me also says he deals with tragedy[or comedy] ever year having to coach a Mike Brown owned team. He should get a handicap for that.

Coaching records for the Bengals (min. approx. 4 seasons)

Forrest Gregg 32–25–0–.561
Marvin Lewis 56–55–1–.505
Paul Brown 55–56–1–.495
Sam Wyche 61–66–0–.480
Bruce Coslet 21–39–0–.350
David Shula 19–52–0–.268

7 more wins and he's the all time leader. Marvin makes some mind blowing clock management decisions, but if I were a Bengals fan, I'd be happy he keeps my team competitive.

by Hurt Bones :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 3:30pm

Paul Brown became owner in 1991. The winning percentage of the Bengals from 1991-2002:


by Jericho (not verified) :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 5:45pm

I'm underwhelmed. Lewis may or may not be a decent coach. But Cincinnati was simply not that good of a team. A 10-6 record, when you outscore your opponents by 14 points all year? that just seems mediocre to me. And maybe mediocre is an improvement for the Bengals, but not enough for coach of the year.

Although I do think it's somewhat funny that Lewis wins one year after nearly being fired. And the only reason he wasn't fired was that Cincinnati is so cheap. Just a fun comment on the NFL's cycling of coaches.

by tonic889 (not verified) :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 5:51pm

Does it seem odd to anyone that this voting occurs before the playoffs are over? I mean, I might be more or less willing to vote for guys like Caldwell, Payton, or Rex Ryan, depending on what they do in the playoffs....

by Raiderjoe :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 7:27pm

Not odd one bit.

it is a regulalr season award. very simple. just like other nfl awards and same as nba and mlb awards.

Cy young award given to Kanaas City Royal. team was not close to playoffs.

guy on 8=8 team win offensive player of year award

one time Jimmy johnson won nfl coach of year when his team finished 7-9.

all-pro temams are based on reg seaosn. this reason why some players on bad teams get on all pro team.

by Raiderjoe :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 7:24pm

wrote this in other thread which is now gone and fixed these comments a little (NNop more typos)-

Cinc improved by 5.5 games in 2009 so that is why lewis got award.

award almost always go to coach who improves team by good number of games

not really anything more to it than that

one time guy win it after team make 0 improvemrnt in wins but that is tricky

Joe Gibbs went 8-8 in 1981 and then 8-1 in 1982. won award after 82 season. also won it again in 1983 when team went 14-2.

A Reid win it after improving team by 1 game in 2002.
11-5 in 01, 12-4 in 02.

Most other winners are head coaches who take team to playoffs after it was crap team in the year prior

Redskins and J Gibbs very impressive after starting 0-5 in 1981.

finished 1981 season by going 8-3.

in 82 team was 8-1 in reg season and then went 4-0 in playoffs

went 14-2 in 1983 and then 2-0 in Nfc playoffs

so record after starting 0-5 in 1981: 36-6

then came Super bowl 18.

Raiders 38, redskins 9

Redskins then 36-7 in 43 game stretch

by Raiderjoe :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 7:37pm

head coahches who win coach of year award and then led tema to victory in NFL Championship Game (pre super bowl era0 or Super Bowl ----

George Wilson Lions 1957
Weeb Ewbank cots 1958
Buck Shaw Eagles 1960
George halas Bears 1963
Don Shla 1972 Dolphins
Bil walsh 1981 49ers
Joe Gibba Redskins 1982
Muke Ditka 1985 Bears
Bill Parcells 1986 Giants
Dick Vermeil 1999 Rams
Bill Belichick 2003 Patriots

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 7:54pm

That's more of them than I thought there would be.

by Bobman :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 5:51am

RJ has been on a major roll the past few weeks. Nice work with a great feel for history.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 2:10pm

It's starting to scare me.

by Hari-Kiri Bengals Fan (not verified) :: Sat, 01/16/2010 - 8:35pm

I wouldn't have given it to him.

by Joseph :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 12:41am

My guess is that Sean Payton didn't win it because too many people attribute the Saints' success (and rightfully so, to an extent) to DC Gregg Williams.

by Kibbles :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 5:07am

Alright, I hate to be the insensitive tool who first mentions the bloody big elephant in the room... but there's a bloody big elephant in the room. If you want to give Marvin the award because of how he handled the adversity of Chris Henry's death, shouldn't it be pointed out that Cincy was 9-4 before Henry died and 1-2 afterward? With the one victory being a hard-scrabbled 7 point fourth quarter win... against the pathetic KC Chiefs? That Cincinnati was +47 in scoring margin through their first 13 games, and -33 in scoring margin over their last 3? Come on, this isn't like Brett Favre losing his father and then going out a couple of days later and throwing for 800 yards in the first half, here. I think a very strong argument could be made that Cincinnati did, in fact, fall apart after Chris Henry died, in a big way.

The NFL CotY award almost never actually goes to the best coach, or to the guy who did the best coaching job. It usually goes, instead, to the guy who outperformed expectations the most. The problem with that is that the easiest way to outperform expectations is to be so terrible that nobody expected anything from you in the first place. Ladies and gentlemen... your 2009 Cincinnati Bengals.

Just to give everyone an idea of what a joke the NFL CotY award is... here's a brief list of coaches who have received Coach of the Year honors in the last 20 years: Lindy Infante, Art Shell, Wayne Fontes, Bobby Ross, Ray Rhodes, Dom Capers (twice), Jim Fassel, Jim Haslett, Dick Jauron, and Lovie Smith. So the odds are better than 50% in any given season that a guy like Dick Jauron is going to walk away with some sort of CotY honors, just because everyone thought "wow, I thought that guy was absolutely putrid, but it turns out that he's capable of producing a season that rates as mildly above average!".

by Bobman :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 6:03am

Kibbles, Wow,that is not really elite company, is it?

I think you are right about the expectations thing, but as someone pointed out above, a lot of people pegged the Colts for a regression in the 8-10 wins range and maybe half the pundits said "miss the playoffs" behind the dominant Titans and surging Texans. Mainly due to coaching uncertainties in the offseason. Hey guess what--those uncertainties turned out to be a strength.

If the Colts had gone 16-0 it would not have changed the quality of his in-game coaching, nor would have changed the quality of his off-season management of a lot of staff turnover (and bringing 5 rookies into prominent roles mostly due to injury--three made the all-rookie team? Did any other HC have that many?).

But if they had gone 16-0, I am quite certain Caldwell would have won (how could he not?). I don't really see the difference between 16-0 and coaching well and 14-2 and coaching well, but deciding (along with your GM) to rest guys for the more important post-season. And then coming in 4th in the voting! How about this: they go 15-0 and he plays Manning all game in that blizzard and Manning gets knocked out for the playoffs with an injury. Does Caldwell win the award then? I say no because all the stupid hypocrites who lambasted him for benching starters would lambaste him for exposing his stars and sealing their playoff doom.

I suppose the only validation for the Week 16 benchings will be hoisting a Lombardi and even then, in some people's eyes he'll be a traitor to the game somehow. Especially since it makes 19-0 SEEM even more attainable. But the truth is, a Lombardi should probably prove that 19-0 was not attainable--did anybody see how lively their formerly injured D looked against the momentum/juggernaut Ravens? Resting Freeney/Mathis/Powers/Brackett was a pretty useful thing.

by tuluse :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 6:18am

I have no problem with Art Shell, Wayne Fontes or Lovie Smith winning the award.

by RickD :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 12:31pm

I would certainly have a problem with Wayne Fontes winning the award.

If CotY went to the best coach every year, it would usually revolve around the same people, just like the MVP award does. But for some reason, consistently coaching an elite team is never rewarded by CotY. The award is instead consistently given to the coach of a team who supervises a transition from very crappy to respectable.

Clearly, IMO, the award this year should have gone to Caldwell or Payton. Winning that many games is not easy, and only happens with good coaching. The Colts, in particular, are very well coached in all aspects of the game. (Well, except for special teams, ha ha ha.)

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/18/2010 - 6:23am

I would certainly have a problem with Wayne Fontes winning the award.

When's the last time a non-Fontes coached Lions team won 10 games, made the playoffs in back-to-back years, or won the division?

by Kibbles :: Mon, 01/18/2010 - 10:33pm

Thanks for making my point for me. The CotY award goes to the guy who exceeds expectations the most, and generally the guy who exceeds expectations the most is the guy with the lowest expectations. Winning 10 games or the division only counts as dramatically exceeding expectations when the expectations are ridiculously low in the first place. That doesn't mean that Fontes was the best coach that year, that just means that the Lions are really, really terrible.

You're saying that Fontes won the award because he won the division. I'm saying that there were 5 other coaches that year who could make the same claim, and none of them walked away with the CotY award.

by Raiderjoe :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 8:20am

Just to give everyone an idea of what a joke the NFL CotY award is... here's a brief list of coaches who have received Coach of the Year honors in the last 20 years: Lindy Infante, Art Shell, Wayne Fontes, Bobby Ross, Ray Rhodes, Dom Capers (twice), Jim Fassel, Jim Haslett, Dick Jauron, and Lovie Smith.

What award hander outers are you lookgin at? Capers only won AP coahc of year award one time ((this is AP award Lewis won). 1996 seaso with Pantehrs Capers got it.

Maybe other time Capers ghet it it was from sporting news or maxwell club or sopmething?

by Kibbles :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 11:50pm

There are three major CotY awards- the AP, The Sporting News, and Pro Football Weekly. The Sporting News award actually hasn't been nearly as much of a running punchline as the other two (they named Payton this year, fwiw), but the AP and the PFW awards have been an absolute mess. In 1995, PFW named Dom Capers CotY for going 7-9 with the expansion Panthers (his second CotY award came in 1996, where he swept all three awards for going 12-4 with the second year Panthers).

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/18/2010 - 12:33pm

While I don't recall the other candidates in 1995, going 7-9 with an expansion team is quite an accomplishment.

by Raiderjoe :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 8:21am

uyes!! did html tag good

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 12:06pm

I'm sure you'll be submitting guest articles in no time.

by weaponx (not verified) :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 12:30pm

They should rename this award to LOLCOTY. There were only 4-5 coaches better than him last time he won the award as well.