Marvin Lewis: It’s time for Cincinnati Bengals to fire longtime head coach

Other than enjoying a few visits when residing in Indianapolis, I have no allegiance to the Queen City. That said, I was a constant critic of Cincinnati’s baseball manager, who was rightly fired after another postseason choke job in October. Therefore, to be fair, I see the same things with the city’s football coach and believe Marvin Lewis should be axed after another playoff debacle Sunday.

Marvin LewisThe National Football League is not a public school. There is no tenure, no perpetual job security and results matter. Yet Lewis, who just wrapped up his 11th campaign with the team, is the second longest-tenured coach in the league. Only New England’s Bill Belichick (three super bowl titles, five conference titles and 73 percent wins) has coached longer with one team.

Why is Lewis – who is barely over .500, has missed the playoffs in more than half his years at the helm, and overseeing ugly first round exits in all five postseason appearances (four at home) – still collecting a paycheck?

There was a lot riding on Sunday’s wild card game along the Ohio River against a San Diego Chargers team that was 5-7 and all but declared dead a month ago. The game didn’t really sell out, and fans (yes, just fans since may players don’t know or care about history) were “starving” for the team’s first playoff triumph since George H. W. Bush was in office. Even the NFL promoted a cliche-laden story about Lewis and the 2013 team, ignoring his past record.

But by the middle of the third quarter, the same story was being written as years past: questionable play-calling, dropped balls in key spots, erratic throws from Cincy’s signal-caller, four turnovers, a lackluster defense and seemingly ill-unprepared players. And, as the skies opened and rain drenched depressed fans, the Bengals were on their way home early again. San Diego outscored Cincinnati 20-0 in the second half.

Lewis is now 0-5 in the playoffs. Dusty Baker was 2-7 in the postseason, and was only granted six years before termination. Maybe the Reds’ front office has less patience than 78-year-old Bengals’ owner Mike Brown?

Here is a mind-boggling fact: every single NFL team has won a playoff game since Cincinnati last did in 1990.

The Bengals, despite one of football’s best offenses, have become the first franchise in two decades to lose their opening playoff game in three consecutive seasons.

What more evidence is needed?

Surely someone like Marty Schottenheimer, a more successful coach than Lewis, but one who also struggled in January, wonders.


About AJ Kaufman

A former schoolteacher and military historian, A.J. now works in public relations. As an MSF columnist since 2009, he supports anything baseball-related. Raised in San Diego, A.J. has since resided in numerous parts of America, including Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio and Washington State. After departing the coasts in 2005, he's traveled the back roads of all 50 states and prefers the Heartland. Married to Maria, A.J. is the author of three books and enjoys reading presidential biographies.


  1. I’m NOT a Bengals fan so I hope they keep him. Aberdeen, South Dakota would be a good town for the Bengals.

  2. Five playoff appearances in 11 years is not bad, considering Ravens and Steelers in the division.

    My question to Bengals fans is are you satisfied with the status quo and getting bounced first round, or do you want to get to the next level?

    • AJ Kaufman says:

      For once, I’m on Wetzel’s side. “Patient” is euphemistic for stubborn or clueless in this case. I cannot think of any coach in any sport given 11 years without a playoff win. (I’d have fired Lewis three years ago).

      No Bengal fan I know is satisfied, and his defenders point to a few playoff appearances (with embarrassing exits, mainly at home, to mediocre teams)? Nearly 40 percent of the AFC goes to the playoffs. No team has gone longer without a playoff win in the entire NFL! He’s a .500 coach. These guys don’t survive in the NFL on mediocrity and failures on the big stage.

      And also, since I continuously hear this “you better have an alternative” comment lately. Ludicrous. I’m not the GM, nor are the fans. You lose your job when you don’t succeed. The next guy may be better, worse or the same, but that’s far from the point. Coaching football is not teaching 4th grade in Topeka.


  3. It has almost become a fact that ALL teams that wear the Cincinnati moniker are mediocre and wilt in the spotlight. My friend and I had a Facebook conversation where he said that Lewis is great at recognizing talent. I opined back that his mis-management of the game and clock has lost more games than his recognizing of talent. When commentators don’t understand why Lewis goes into the locker room with 3 time outs left when he could have used them shows how clueless he is. Calling a timeout after a TV timeout or something like that is ludicrous. Lewis’ ingenuity and craftiness are an antithesis to Sam Wyche’s no huddle offense. Andy Dalton looked scared, didn’t look like he knew the defense ahead of him and was poorly prepared. The team needed to hurry it up but they just kept huddling for the next play. I kept yelling, NO HUDDLE, NO HUDDLE, run the play!!!! Gruden’s arena football offense didn’t work today and Lewis got outcoached by ANOTHER rookie coach, what does that tell you??? Lewis should be fired tomorrow and Zimmer signed for 3 years as his replacement, no questions asked, that is if Zimmer would accept the position.

    • AJ Kaufman says:

      Very, very astute comments. Thanks for reading and contributing. You even named a successor. Bonus points.

    • Steve Thacker says:

      Mike Brown will NEVER fire Marvin Lewis…mediocrity IS success in Cincinnati! Marvin is one tie over .500 record, and if you remember how long Dave Shula lasted…Marvin will RETIRE as Bengals GM (heard it here first!). Mike Brown needs to retire as CEO and give the “keys” to his daughter, Katie Brown-Blackburn. Katie can “sweet-talk” Jon Gruden back to work to keep his brother employed!!

  4. Sorry, forgot to mention the no urgency with Lewis, a common trait with Dusty Baker losing the last 6 games of the regular season and then lost the one game playoff. His urgency came when he thought there was another game…

  5. While Marvin Lewis isn’t the best coach he’s far from the worst. He’s the best coach the Bengals have had in terms of winning percentage and number of wins. Andy Dalton is much like Carson Palmer. Lots of yards and plenty of untimely picks. It’s more Dalton than Lewis. Palmer like Dalton started out great but started throwing too many picks. Both made the playoffs, both were miserable in their playoff games. It may be time to draft a proven college quarterback that doesn’t wilt during the playoffs.

  6. I am a Bengals fan and I can tell you until Mike Brown is out of the picture as GM, nothing will change in the future. Marvin Lewis has been the only coach to stand up to him and get what he needs to do the basics, let alone win in the playoffs. Yes, the coaching should have done more to win this game, but with an average QB we can’t go any deeper let alone win a Super Bowl. That decision comes down to Mike Brown making an effort to get a quality QB. Why do you think it has been 25 years of poor teams? Marvin Lewis has only been around for 11 of those! I am all for change, but until it starts at the top a .500 season is a blessing in disguise.

    • AJ Kaufman says:

      Looks like no one in the Bengals front office has a clue, or they’re blindly loyal as Lewis survives (for now)

  7. While I disagree with virtually everything you say, often vitriolically, you’ve finally outed yourself and, under pressure to do so including probably being quickly unmasked, taken responsibility under your own name for your ridiculous prso.uncementonI’m hoping now that you’ve done so you will measure your remarks with more thought and less impetuousness.

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