The Cincinnati Bengals and head coach Marvin Lewis are finally parting ways.
The team made the move Monday, ending Lewis’ long run with the Bengals. Lewis was the league’s second-longest-tenured head coach, having guided Cincinnati for 16 seasons. That was second only to New England’s Bill Belichick, who is at 19 seasons and counting.
After a 6-10 season and third straight season without a playoff appearance, it was time for a fresh start.
Lewis, Bengals ‘mutually part ways’
Via a post on the Bengals’ website, the sides “mutually decided to part ways.”
“The team is very appreciative of all that Marvin has accomplished over the past 16 years,” Bengals owner Mike Brown said. “Personally, I am very fond of Marvin and will miss working with him. He is a friend and a colleague, and I thank him for what he has meant to this franchise. But it is time to turn the page and look toward the next chapter for our organization, and we are excited about what the future holds for the team and our fans.”
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Dec. 23 about the future of another coach on the hot seat, the Denver Broncos’ Vance Joseph (Joseph was also fired on Monday), and said Joseph would be a top candidate for the Bengals’ defensive coordinator position or even head coach “when Lewis decides he has had enough of coaching.”
Last year, Brown said he worked out the two-year extension for Lewis because Cincinnati finished the season on a high note, with two wins.
Regular-season success, postseason failures
Lewis’ tenure in Cincinnati will largely be remembered for his postseason failures.
But not to be forgotten is that Lewis helped turn around a moribund franchise. The Bengals snapped a 14-year run of sub-.500 (with one exception), playoff-less seasons in Lewis’ third year, 2005. Cincinnati went to the postseason six out of seven years from 2009-2015.
However, Lewis could never get the Bengals past the first weekend of the playoffs.
Of those seven postseason appearances, the Bengals lost in the wild-card round every time.
Their worst loss may have been the most recent. In 2015, they went 12-4, losing out on a first-round bye to the New England Patriots by a tiebreaker. Cincinnati hosted their divisional rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and were in a 15-0 hole to start the third quarter.
The Bengals fought back, taking a 16-15 lead with just under two minutes to play behind backup quarterback AJ McCarron, who was filling in for injured Andy Dalton. Then the defense intercepted Steelers backup quarterback Landry Jones on Pittsburgh’s next snap (Ben Roethlisberger was out of the game briefly).
However, running back Jeremy Hill fumbled the ball away on the Bengals’ next play and the Steelers recovered. Pittsburgh got into field-goal position, thanks to some personal-foul penalties on the Bengals, and made the game-winning field goal with seconds to play.
That set a record for most playoff losses without a win by any coach in NFL history, something that will be a big part of Lewis’ legacy in Cincinnati.
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