Marvin Lewis became the first coach in NFL history to go 0-7 in the playoffs on Saturday, this after the Cincinnati Bengals lost 18-16 to the Pittsburgh Steelers – despite leading and possessing the ball within field-goal range with less than two minutes to go.
Nevertheless, Lewis will be back next season to coach a franchise that has not won a playoff game since 1990.
How is that possible? How is Lewis’ job safe when he seems incapable of winning games that matter?
“I guess you can say, ‘Well you can’t lose the games that do matter if you don’t win all the games that don’t,’” Cincinnati Enquirer Bengals beat writer Jim Owczarski said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Fifty-two wins, five years – it’s very rare regular-season territory that Marvin Lewis exists in. Honestly, (the people who cover the team) all knew that nothing was going to change unless Marvin Lewis wanted it to change. Although I will say if you didn’t have an MVP-quality quarterback the way Andy Dalton played this year – he’s 28. A.J. Green is 28. Your entire offense essentially is returning. Your core front seven is all returning on defense. Maybe if they were about to just tear it down and totally rebuild, maybe (you fire Lewis). You got to win 10 to 12 to get there. Everyone else is coming back. They can reload again. We’ll hear from Mike Brown at the owners’ meetings about his line of thinking, but that’s what we have to go on because that’s what it is, frankly.”
Lewis has had great assistant coaches during his tenure in Cincinnati. Mike Zimmer has led the Vikings to the playoffs. Jay Gruden has led the Redskins to the playoffs. Several teams are interested in offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
And there’s Lewis, who stays despite having zero playoff wins in 13 seasons.
“That, to (Bengals fans), is crazy,” Owczarski said. “They love Zim. They love Hue Jackson. They’re kind of tired of the Marvin Lewis Show, feeling something needs to change to get over the hump. But again, all that matters is the guy writing the checks, and as of today, Mike Brown doesn’t want to change those things.”
The vast majority of Bengals fans were irate following Saturday’s loss to Pittsburgh, directing that anger at both Lewis and the referees. In fact, many Bengals fans believe the officiating was one-sided.
“I definitely think it comes to that with the unsportsmanlike call on Adam Jones and then previously to that was the Ryan Shazier helmet-to-helmet (hit) on Giovani Bernard,” Owczarski said. “Let’s face it. It was a completed pass in field-goal range or (near) field-goal range as the team was coming back from that deficit, and what happens? Not only do you knock their best running back out of the game, but it created a turnover. So there are definitely elements of the fan base that do not like the officials. But let’s be real: I think it’s one of those things where this rivalry, this game, anything like that that went the wrong way, either fan base is going to say, ‘Hey, we got screwed on that one.’”