Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

17 Dec 2017

Marvin Lewis Reportedly Leaving Bengals

ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that after 15 seasons as head coach, Marvin Lewis will leave the Cincinnati Bengals after the season.

Lewis' contract, and those of all his assistants, expires at the end of the year.

"If a head-coaching job does not materialize," Schefter writes, "sources said Lewis would be interested in working in another team's front office or as a coaching adviser for a former Bengals assistant coach who has gone on to become a head coach, such as Mike Zimmer, whose Minnesota Vikings host the Bengals on Sunday."

Lewis told the Bengals' website that there was "nothing" to these reports.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 17 Dec 2017

20 comments, Last at 20 Dec 2017, 11:41am by Noah Arkadia


by Treima :: Sun, 12/17/2017 - 4:27pm

Guess the statute of limitations has finally run out on whatever incriminating evidence Lewis had on the front office. Either that or his phylactery was discovered.

I don't think I've ever seen mediocrity keep tenure the way Lewis has in any major league sport. He's had no shortage of talent on either side of the ball and nothing but egregious losses to postseason also-rans to show for it.

by theslothook :: Sun, 12/17/2017 - 5:40pm

I can understand most of his playoff losses. Not all but most. That and his low salary went a long way to explaining his tenure.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:27pm

The only one that I have particular issue with is the 2013 loss to the Chargers. That was a really good Bengals team that just utterly collapsed in the 2nd half (thought they could also give the Patriots a game had they won).

I guess you can say the 2009 loss to the Jets, but that was a great Jets defense, Shayne Graham missed two makeable kicks, etc.

All the others were either losses as road underdogs ('11, '12, '14), or had the game significantly impacted by injuries (2015 - no Dalton, 2005 - lose Palmer on the second snap).

by PaddyPat :: Sun, 12/17/2017 - 6:38pm

It also has to be viewed in context, which is what I've argued with Scott on this site in years past. The Bengals' ownership is lazy and cheap, and Lewis had to argue hard for greater professionalism in the scouting department to even become competitive. Cincinnati was a laughingstock, which hadn't been to the playoffs for over a decade. Lewis oversaw the reclamation of the franchise and made them into a playoff competitor and then into an annual postseason team. Fifteen years in, we can assuredly see shortcomings in Lewis' gameday decision making and sometimes in his gameplans, but he remains the most successful coach in Cincinnati history, working against the grain of a rotten infrastructure. In light of expectations and organizational obstacles, I think Lewis' coaching tenure has been a success, perhaps not what we would expect for a coach in another city, but good luck to any other coach who enters that situation in attempting to achieve anything close to what Lewis has.

by coboney :: Sun, 12/17/2017 - 9:06pm

I think that's important to see there and a lot of people have forgotten that at times, as the old saying of familiarity breeds contempt. We became familiar with Lewis and the idea of the Bengals being a professional, competitive team - thus the fact that he's been a large reason those things exist gets forgotten.

He also had to do a lot of the building of what scouting there is and remember that Mike Brown is still officially the Bengals GM - but Lewis has effectively been driving that for at least a decade by and large. It's telling also how many good coaches have come through there - not all successes as head coaches but solid coaches showing strengths that Lewis has which seems a lot to be interpersonal. He dealt well with a team with high strung personalities, he's dealt well with Brown, he's found good people to delegate to (for the most part - not always), and those are all valuable things.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the Bengals from here. Did what Lewis built have enough momentum behind it to sustain when he leaves, or will it fall into disrepair?

by Will Allen :: Sun, 12/17/2017 - 11:08pm

Mike Brown is still Mike Brown. The smart bet is no more than 25 wins over the next 5 years.

by coboney :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 9:38am

Sadly that's true - unless the person who comes in happens to have Lewis' ability to gain Mike Brown's trust, ability at personnel and ability at dealing with frictional personalities, things are going to be rough in Bengal town.

by Noah Arkadia :: Wed, 12/20/2017 - 11:41am

Is Dave Shula available?

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:47pm

I was going to comment that Paul Brown was more successful, but then I looked up his Bengals statistics and discovered his winning percentage was under .500 there, which really surprised me. The best case scenario for the Bengals now would be to employ Lewis as the GM and give him a raise, since he was basically the GM already. They'd have to fire Mike Brown from that position, and he won't do that to himself, will he? Lewis shouldn't have too much of a problem getting hired in a front office around the league, since everyone in the league knows what he was doing in Cinci anyway.

by Boots Day :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 3:06pm

That's a mite unfair, since the Bengals were an expansion team when Brown started coaching them. After struggling their first two years, they went 48-36 under Paul Brown.

by serutan :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:17pm

Exactly; Expansion teams got no help getting started in those days. I think that changed when Jax and Carolina were added.
Was wr

by PaddyPat :: Sun, 12/17/2017 - 6:38pm

Double Post.

by Cythammer :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:11am

I think Marvin Lewis is a much better coach than most people give him credit for. The Ravens and Steelers have been consistently good, so hanging in there as a playoff contender in the AFC North is an achievement.

It's also forgotten how good the Bengals were just two years ago. They finished second in DVOA but lost Andy Dalton late in the season. If he stays healthy Lewis would likely have finally got that elusive playoff win, and certainly could have done much more. As it was they still almost beat the Steelers in the playoffs even with AJ McCarron as QB.

by jackiel :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 2:43am

+1 It's amazing how people conveniently like to forget that NFL wins are a zero growth industry. It's difficult to be consistently successful in a division with the Ravens and Steelers, not to mention in a conference with the Pats and the Peyton-era Colts and Broncos. This is compounded by the fact that the Bengals are perhaps the cheapest organization in the NFL. Lewis did pretty well with the hand he was dealt. If the Bengals had managed to appear in an AFC Championship game during his tenure, I think he'd be remembered much more fondly. That said, there is a high probability of that happening anyway since it'll be hard to find a successor that can thrive in an environment like Cincinnati in which good scouting, player development, and people management skills are more important given the relative lack of resources. Coaches with Lewis' organizational skills and X and O's chops are in short supply.

by sbond101 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:43am

+2, I can think of at least 10-15 organizations that would be made better by having Lewis instead of whoever they've got. Failing to be a top 5 coach/GM in the NFL really shouldn't get you fired, even after a long tenure. Thinking that way turns your organization into the Browns.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:38pm

Thinking that way turns your organization into the Browns.

Which makes it doubly delightful that the Bengals are reportedly pursuing Hue Jackson to replace Lewis.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 1:51pm

Just thinking how the Browns might have been better off hiring Lewis as GM; he's already dealt with absurd owners, and he has a better track record drafting quarterbacks than Dorsey; Palmer and Dalton beat anything Dorsey has done in that department. Hell, the Jets should bring him into the front office just to decide which quarterback to take and let MacCagnan draft linemen in the later rounds.

by serutan :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 4:20pm

The difference between Haslam and Mike Brown is Brown is so cheap that he
is very reluctant to fire anyone and eat the remaining part of their contract. Haslam on the other hand has shown that he is willing to fire someone at the
drop of a hat and drop the hat himself, so Lewis would not be safe from him at all.
Was wr

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 9:36am

All of the positives above are accurate. Lewis brought order to chaos. Lewis talent development skill (for both players and coaches) is very good.

Marvin's only real flaw, and in a way it's admirable, is that he is committed to helping outcast players redeem themselves. Adam Jones was on his way out of the league. He has been a mainstay of the Bengals secondary now for a long time. The list of similar such players is pretty lengthy. The downside is that not all of these guys reward Lewis' faith in them and so there are intermittent player behavior incidents some of which may involve law enforcement.

by jackiel :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:08pm

I would argue that their willingness to sign shady characters is a direct reflection of the Bengals' cheapness. Guys like Jones and Burfict were talented players that could be signed at a discount to the market due to their iffy backgrounds. A lot of credit should go to Lewis and his staff for getting solid production out of them.