The Big Cat in Cincy
Marvin Lewis is entering his 10th season as coach of the Cincinnati Bengals fresh on the heels of a two-year extension that runs through the 2014 season.
Considering the road Lewis took to get here, I’m not surprised he’s still around.
Lewis and Johnson were closer than people think
Marvin Lewis is the winningest coach in Bengals history (69-74) as well as its longest tenured (3rd current longest in NFL). Lewis came to the Bengals after the Baltimore Ravens defense that he oversaw decimated the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. Prior to that, Lewis had been the top candidate for several teams including the Green Bay Packers who chose to go in a different direction.
Mike Silver of Sports Illustrated described Lewis defensive masterpiece in the afterglow of the Super Bowl: “If ever a man proved his worth as a future head coach, Marvin Lewis did it with this complete domination of the Giants in their 16 possessions: Punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, interception, punt, interception, interception, punt, interception, punt, punt, punt, end of game.”
After consecutive 8-8 seasons, the Bengals young nucleus of Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, Rudi Johnson and T.J. Houshmanzadeh came together and the Bengals were in the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.
Lewis has had only two winning seasons since 2005, including coach of the year in 2009 after going 10-6 and winning the NFC North.
Lewis has endured rumored firings for the Bengals slide after the 2005 season. There was pressure from the media to put a muzzle on a talkative Chad Johnson despite his outstanding numbers. Lewis allowed Chad to be Chad and it worked, Johnson never appeared on a police blotter while in Cincy. Lewis faced scrutiny for a stretch where players did have all sorts of run-ins with the law. During that period Bengals owner/general manager Mike Brown stuck by his coach. Lewis dealt with losing Houshmanzadeh, Palmer and Johnson within two years.
Then there is the story of Chris Henry. The talented Henry was drafted out of West Virginia by the Bengals in 2005 and blended in well with the offense, it was his off the field issues that kept him in trouble. Finally after serving an 8-game suspension in the 2007 season, Henry was cut loose and brought back by the franchise in 2008. After getting his career and life back on track, Henry died after suffering grave injuries after falling off the back of a pickup truck driven by his fiancée.
Lewis was quick to point out the change he saw in Henry:
“Our football team, what they’re feeling yesterday and this morning … they watched a guy mature as a young man and work through adversity.”
Going into last season Lewis faced uncertainty going into the season with a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton and a rookie wideout in A.J. Green. The Bengals were the surprise of the league last season as the rookie duo led the Bengals to the playoffs, backed by one of the better defenses.
Despite his topsy-turvy tenure in Cincinnati, it looks like this cat landed on his feet.
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Hey Mr. Wendal…