Bengals Extend Coach Marvin Lewis Through '19; Team Finishes 31st In NFL Attendance
The Bengals and Marvin Lewis yesterday "agreed to continue their partnership" through the '19 season, meaning Lewis remains the "second-longest tenured" coach in the NFL behind the Patriots' Bill Belichick, according to Jim Owczarski of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. An ESPN report that came out just before kickoff of Bengals-Vikings on Dec. 17 said that Lewis had "made up his mind to leave." But Lewis has "consistently denied that information came from him." Despite the denials, ESPN's Adam Schefter and the net "never backtracked from the report that cited anonymous league sources." The Bengals' 7-9 record this season "marked the second straight losing campaign after five straight playoff appearances, but Lewis has always maintained he wanted to coach" in '18. Clearly, the front office "determined there was enough progress from the young talent that Lewis should lead a third reboot of the franchise under his watch." Lewis has the "most regular-season victories and playoff appearances in franchise history," but his 125 regular season wins without a postseason victory is "tied for most in NFL history" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 1/3). In Cincinnati, Paul Daugherty writes keeping Lewis "is a mistake." If Bengals Owner Mike Brown is "in business to win a championship," he needs to "explain why ... this coach is the coach to get you there." Because Lewis has had "15 cracks at it, and he hasn't come close." Daugherty: "Anywhere else, this is outrageous. Here, it's business as usual" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 1/3).
SURPRISING MOVE? ESPN's Schefter said the Bengals' coaching staff was "completely shocked" at the deal but is "very pleased he is back because of what he's meant to that organization" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/2). ESPN's Michael Smith said, "Remember what that franchise was before Marvin Lewis got there. All of these teams are making change for change's sake. Unless you can definitively point to proof that the reason for their playoff shortcomings rest with Marvin Lewis and his inability to coach in playoff games as opposed to regular-season games, why not stay the course?" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/2). But CBSSN's Adam Schein said of the extension, "You can't make this up if you tried. It was over, his contract ran out. We were all talking about Marvin Lewis in the past tense, done, finished, see ya, bag it, never again. Zero playoff wins, zero. The Bengals were dreadful this year." This is ownership "telling the fans, 'We don't care about being a respectable team'" ("Time to Schein," CBSSN, 1/2).
DOWN YEAR: In Cincinnati, Steve Watkins noted the Chargers were the "only team" to finish behind the Bengals in attendance in '17. The Bengals "averaged 53,242 fans per home game this season," down 12% from the 60,511 last year. The Bengals "set a league low" by playing in front of an average 81.3% of Paul Brown Stadium's capacity in '17. Just four other teams "sold less" than 90% of their available tickets this season. The Bengals entered the season after a "disappointing" 6-9-1 record in '16, and the team "opened the season with two poor performances in home losses." The crowds at the last two home games reflected the fact the Bengals would miss the playoffs, as the team averaged "just less than 50,000 fans in those contests" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/2).