Cincinnati Bengals' head coach Marvin Lewis is headed into the final year of a contract extension he signed in 2010. While it's extremely rare for NFL coaches to head into a season with a "lame duck" status, keep in mind these are the Cincinnati Bengals we're talking about here. Rarely is business done as expected.
Lewis will roam the sidelines in Cincinnati for his 10th season this year, already the longest tenured coach in franchise history. Still, Lewis' record over the past nine years is a losing one (69-74-1) and the Bengals have yet to win a playoff game under him. If this was Dallas or New York instead of Cincinnati, Lewis would have been collecting unemployment a long time ago.
So what's holding up an extension of Marvin Lewis' deal? Is Mike Brown wanting to see what happens with the Bengals this season before committing more years to Lewis? Or is Lewis hoping to put together consecutive playoff appearances to boost his resume in hopes of opening up other options for himself?
It's highly doubtful that Mike Brown, at this point in the game, is holding out on Lewis. In fact, Geoff Hobson reported back in February and Lewis confirmed that Brown had approached him multiple times about signing an extension. Then and now, Lewis has deflected answering in any more detail, simply saying the two "haven't had time" to sit down and discuss particulars.
That leaves us with the second possibility. In 2010, Marvin Lewis was coming off a playoff loss to the Jets. It was believed at that time that Lewis had few options in the NFL game besides staying with Cincinnati. There were rumors that he was interested in the University of Pittsburgh job, but nothing came of them.
During the negotiations, Lewis was open that some "changes" had to occur before he would re-sign. Eventually, Lewis got the OK to dismiss Bob Bratkowski and now has successfully lobbied for changes in the scouting department. All signs point to Mike Brown surrendering, however reluctantly, significant control to Lewis in matters of staffing and personnel. Is that enough?
Lewis has said that he enjoys living in Cincinnati and that he and Mike Brown are seeing things "eye to eye" more often these days. Most would agree that Lewis is one of the few men in the league who could have put up with Mike Brown for this long, let alone negotiate change with him.
Lewis will be 54 in September. How much longer does he want to coach? He told reporters back in February that he doesn't see himself coaching "til I'm 80." Lewis has done an unbelievable job in his nine years bringing the Bengals back to respectability. At this stage of his career, would he want to start over with another franchise?
The big question is just how much faith does Marvin Lewis have that the changes made will be permanent and that the team he currently has will give him a chance over the next few years to win a Super Bowl. If Lewis and Brown are able to sit down over these next few weeks before the start of training camp and iron out a deal, it's safe to say Lewis believes in his team and organization. If he goes into the season without a new deal, the tea leaves would suggest that Lewis is taking a "wait and see" approach.
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