Marvin Lewis' Rent Is 15 Years Overdue

The Cincinnati Bengals have been in the midst of an ongoing struggle for most of recent history, one that includes frustrated fans. Unlike the Browns and other teams that struggle to put together three wins in a season, the Bengals are stuck in a so called “middle ground”. There can be many reasons for this, but for many frustrated Cincinnatians, the blame always seems to land on the shoulders of one man, Marvin Lewis.

 Photo by the Cincinnati Bengals

Photo by the Cincinnati Bengals

Marvin Lewis has been the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals since the start of the 2003 season. During his time, he has had a wavy journey with many highs and lows. His highs are significant, but very few in number. They include winning AP Coach of the Year in 2009, winning the AFC North 4 times, and making 7 playoff appearances. But, the lows significantly outweigh the highs. He has a playoff record of 0-7, he’s had recent struggles with talent regarded as ‘Top 5” in the league by most, and is very set in his ways, making it hard for him to make significant changes.

By the standards of some, this doesn’t seem to be a bad situation, but many others are becoming weary of the same old shenanigans made by the Bengals organization. Marvin Lewis is the second longest tenured coach in the NFL, only behind the great Bill Belichek. If one looks at the two’s time as head coach of their respective teams, they look different. The Patriots have won 5 Super Bowls and have missed the playoffs only once since 2003. Along with this, the Patriots never seem to disappoint and actually out perform their projections. The Bengals on the other hand, do not.

Since 2003, Bengals fans have seen it all: high expectations and subpar results, great regular season performances and playoff disappointment, questionable decisions and a resistance to change. Being a Bengals fan has its frustration because it is easy to expect the worst. This can be a direct result of a recent playoff game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cincinnati in 2015. The Bengals made a ferocious comeback looked like they were going to win their first playoff game since 1990. Then all hell broke loose. Cincinnati ended up losing the game as a result of two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties by Bengals defenders with under 60 seconds remaining in the game. This screams a lack of control by the head coach, Marvin Lewis.

 Photo by Keith Allison

Photo by Keith Allison

The performance caused Bengals great, Boomer Esiason, to voice his frustration. He said, “If Marvin Lewis can't control his players, maybe Marvin Lewis shouldn't be standing there on the sidelines coaching”.  If prominent sportscasters like Boomer are voicing concerns, it usually means something needs to be done. 

The ongoing saga of Vontaze Burfict also shows that Lewis has a lack of control over his players. Vontaze Burfict is the most incendiary and talked about player in the NFL for all the wrong reasons. Whether it is kicking players, hitting them late, and bumping referees, Burfict always seems to be in the news. Lewis is dragged into this because Burfict continues to make poor decisions and Marvin doesn’t do anything about it. Burfict is a great player, but his decision making hurts the team. Marvin needs to either discipline him or cut him, and he hasn’t hinted at either as a possible response. It almost seems like he is scared to do anything.

A constant state of failure is never good, but this year is different. The Bengals started 0-3 and had no touchdowns within the first two games. Fans began to want Lewis out right then. He has turned it around a little with winning 3 of the next 4 games, but a recent comment he had in the press conference after a loss in Pittsburgh made people anger meter rise back up to boiling.

 Photo by Jeffrey Beall

Photo by Jeffrey Beall

Joe Mixon, the Bengals extremely gifted 2nd round draft pick, has been suiting up at running back and has statistically been doing better than both Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. There has been a certain trend that fans and others around the league have been noticing. It is that Mixon has several opportunities to touch the ball in the first half, and is lucky to see the field in the second half. Against the Steelers, he had 7 rushes for 48 yards in the first half (6.9 yards per carry) and was given no rushing attempts in the second half.

This is important because after a provoking lost in Pittsburgh, Mixon decided to voice some of his frustrations.

Mixon told Katherine Terrell of ESPN, "It's frustrating. I feel like I'm seeing [Le'Veon Bell] get the ball 35 times, and I got it seven in the first half and then don't touch the ball again. [Jeremy] Hill only got one touch in the second half. It's frustrating to us running backs. We feel like we're in the room and we feel like we're part of the offense. If it worked in the first half, why not do it in the second?"

He followed up by saying, "Me personally, I feel like I can do way more than [Bell] did. Like I said, I only had seven carries. I can't showcase nothing if I don't get the ball. There's nothing else I can say."

Although saying that he should get the same workload as prized veteran Leveon Bell might be over the top, Marvin aren’t giving him the opportunity to show the league what he’s got.

Almost every single person who analyzed this situation agrees completely with Mixon, including Bengals beat writer and author of the “Cincy Jungle” Patrick Judis

 Photo by Emeybee

Photo by Emeybee

However, one person specifically didn’t agree with Mixon, Head Coach Marvin Lewis. When Lewis was asked about the situation, he responded in a way that shows he has no responsibility when it comes to play calling and offense.  He said "He was there in the third quarter. Whatever plays are called are called." 

He then went on to say that Mixon needs to “show maturity just like everybody else. Everybody wants to be out there all the time.”

This ticked off members of the Bengals staff and of the city of Cincinnati because everyone knows Mixon is extremely talented and Lewis is holding him back for some unknown reason. If Lewis had control of his team he would let Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor know that Mixon should see an uptick in carries. Lewis has had a history of not playing rookies all that much, but in this case he should be able to make a mature decision and go against previous habits. This makes people believe that he doesn’t understand his personel on the team or that he has no communication with his play caller or quarterback.

Lewis is also causing frustration when it comes to his first round pick in this past draft, John Ross III. Ross recorded the fastest 40 yard dash time in the history of the NFL combine as a Wide Receiver from the University of Washington. He showed a lot of promise before the draft so the Bengals spent the 9th overall draft pick on him. Seems like he should be working out well on the field opposite of AJ Green right? Well nobody knows at this point because Ross hasn’t been on the field. He dealt with some early injuries, but recently he hasn’t seen the field at all, including being a healthy inactive scratch against Jacksonville.

This tells the fans one of two things. Marvin Lewis whiffed on top ten pick who happens to also have injury history, or he doesn’t know who to be playing. In both instances it angers the fans and shows that Lewis does not know what he is doing at the head of the organization. John Ross’ draft preview by Fox Sports is shown here.

This matters because between all of recent poor decisions and lack of ability to control his players, the Bengals have not lived up to their potential. A head coach typically indicates whether a team will or will not have success, and in this case the Bengals are losing a grip on winning as a result of Marvin Lewis being the head guy. At this point, a decision needs to be made by the ownership. Is it time for a change, or should fans continue to expect frustrating mediocrity from the Bengals? Although it could be dicey for the Bengals to hire a new head coach because of the uncertainty that goes along with it, risk is a choice that some organizations need to choose. Change is good and needed sometimes, and in the case of the Cincinnati Bengals, a head coaching change is the best option for the organization and fan base going forward.

Chase Kendall