Another year of football has passed and Bengals fans are still dreaming of visions of thunderstorms on rainy nights and flipping catches in the end zone. That fateful January 9 Wild Card game has become legendary. It was a crossroads for the past and present of Cincinnati Bengals football. Marvin Lewis has been the architect of a team on the verge of winning it all. Can he deliver the goods this season?
Lewis has had a successful ride. Since taking the reins of head coach, the Bengals have become a contender. Recently, the men in Orange and Black have become staples of the postseason landscape. Since 2011, Lewis has been able to steer Cincinnati into the playoffs. But, the results have been woefully obvious. With determined coaches and rosters packed with talented players, Marvelous Marvin is still winless.
During the regular season, the Bengals are juggernauts. The season begins with promise and whips fans into a frenzy. The bandwagon gets filled to capacity and even some analysts begin to drink the Kool-Aid. Yet the time is getting thin. Lewis and Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin have done a wonderful job. The Bengals are constantly in the hunt for a playoff berth. Yet, the window of opportunity is shrinking.
Last year, the level of nastiness between the Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers reached a boiling point. The three games played between the teams was an orgy of penalties and injuries.
When the teams met in Week 8, it was a hard-fought battle that saw Le’Veon Bell injured. Vontaze Burfict brought him down with a hard tackle that looked illegal. Later, players and analysts deemed the takedown legal. But the damage had been done. Bell was once again out for the season. Once again, a Bengals player had caused the injury.
It would be easy to assume that Week 14 was a payback. Andy Dalton fractured his thumb, attempting a tackle on Stephon Tuitt. No, it wasn’t divine intervention. Lewis could have intervened on a major level. Mr. Dalton could have been reminded that quarterbacks “don’t” tackle 300-pound linemen. That play threw a monkey wrench into the Bengals’ Super Bowl hopes.
Lewis can’t get on the field and literally play each down. But, he can relay attitude and discipline. That aspect of the game was sorely missing.
It seems as though Lewis was oblivious to the exchanges between the Bengals and Steelers. Not only was he unaware of the on-field incidents, he was blindsided by the social media insanity.
“Unfortunately, the social media stuff let things get out of hand,” Lewis admitted, via ESPN. “I was negligent in not understanding all of that until it was too late.”
“I apologized to our players for that after the first time around. I didn’t realize it was going on like that. I thought it was chatter, no big deal. But some people think it’s more significant than others.”
Lewis’ comments came two months after the tirade of tweets between players. The apology is a huge deal. But it comes way later than needed. If Lewis had been more hard-nosed, would it have happened? So far, this season has been different. The Bengals seem to be intent on focusing on the upcoming campaign.
In order to move to the next level. Lewis will have to be the coach many players don’t like. Marvin can turn the losses around. His 0-7 record in the postseason is just a few tweaks away from perfection. As long as Mr. Lewis keeps winning, Mike Brown will give him a chance. But the rope is getting shorter. As reported by Sports Illustrated, he has a lot to prove. That alone should give him the incentive to push the Bengals to greatness.
[Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images]