Insider: Bengals know they must perform to secure Lewis’ future

Jim Owczarski
Cincinnati Enquirer
View Comments
The Cincinnati Bengals know they must perform for head coach Marvin Lewis to remain on the sidelines beyond 2017.

The opening of the Cincinnati Bengals’ 50th training camp on July 27 will mark an occasion that is happening for just the second time in a decade – head coach Marvin Lewis coaching out his contract.

Team president and owner Mike Brown and Lewis did not come to an agreement on what had seemed like an annual rite of spring with a one-year extension this offseason, so Lewis enters his 15th campaign as the Bengals’ head coach with no security beyond.

The last time he faced such a season was in 2010, when the club went 4-12 and ended with Carson Palmer threatening retirement, an awkward press conference for the ages announcing that Lewis was coming back – and then ultimately the “rebooting” of the organization with the drafting of A.J. Green, Andy Dalton and Clint Boling.

But after a 6-9-1 campaign a year ago – the Bengals’ first losing and non-playoff season since 2010 and just the fourth time finishing under .500 since Lewis took over in 2003 – do the players feel any pressure on Lewis’ behalf?

It is a unique situation. 

“There’s no doubt about it,” Boling acknowledged. “He’s obviously been here for a long time. At some point, I would think he would stop coaching here but you’d rather it be on his own terms and that kind of thing. I think everybody wants to go out on their own terms.”

Since Lewis was hired in 2003, the Bengals have been one of the few standards of stability in the league.

“It’s been great that he has been the only person a lot of these guys have known and has been here for so long because he’s had a lot of successful years,” Dalton said. “I think keeping the continuity of having the same coaches is big, and sometimes an underrated value.”

For instance, of the Bengals current 89-man roster heading into camp, only 13 players have played a regular season game for a head coach other than Marvin Lewis.

And of the current 89-man roster, only 10 were a part of the 2010 campaign – and five of those players (Cedric Peerman, Adam Jones, Vinny Rey, Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap) were in the first year of their careers with the Bengals.

Of the Bengals with at least two years of NFL experience, per the official roster, the only head coach 41 players have known on a regular season game day is Lewis.

With the players, the topic is a non-starter.

“He doesn’t talk about contracts. He doesn’t talk about his situation,” Dalton said. “It’s all about having a good year. So, the guys aren’t thinking about that.”

The players aren’t oblivious to their coach’s situation, of course, but it’s not something Lewis has addressed or likely will address with them.

In their eyes, he doesn’t need to.

“The main thing is whether he is re-upped or not, we still go out and do our job,” said punter Kevin Huber, who joined the club in 2009. “We’re all in the same situation. We have to play for our own contract. That’s obviously nice if you have your head coach stable and obviously we would love to keep having him as coach, we love him, but I think for us it’s more important to focus on what we’ve got to do on the field rather than worry if he’s going to get a new contract or not.

“That’s what he’s going to want us to do to. He’s not going to want us to worry about him. He wants us to do our job and worry about us and make sure we do what we need to do to win.”

Adam Jones, who joined the club as a free agent in 2010, agreed.

“I know as far as a group we love coach and we’re all in here working toward one thing, which is winning,” Jones said. “And if you’re winning everything is good. If you have one bad year, you should get everybody out of here. So, we just gotta stay true to ourselves and worry about the things we can control and let everything else play itself out.

“I think everybody knows what’s at stake. First, we don’t want to let down ourselves and our families and we definitely don’t want to let down coach Lewis.”

That was the feel among the veteran leaders in the locker room, but there is a cold reality of the situation as well.

“We all have to perform whether It’s Marvin or whether it’s us as players,” Boling said. “He could easily be fired with one year left on a deal just as easily as we could be cut with multiple years left on our deal. So it’s like anything else – you have to perform and the rest of the stuff just kind of takes care of itself.”


To that end, linebacker Vinny Rey, who played his first regular season games for Lewis in 2010, noted how he has seen many assistant coaches move on for promotions around the league.

“Even though I have two years left on my contract, for me it’s week-to-week,” Rey said. “I’ve got to perform to stay here. I think it’s the same for coaches. You have to perform. And when you perform you get elevated and get hired.

“Some people will say yeah, maybe coach Lewis is in the same boat with us now, but I feel like we’re always in the same boat – we always have to perform. That’s why we can trust him. We know that it’s urgent for him to do his job just like it’s urgent for us to do our job. So he’s never going to favor anyone because he’s got to be loyal to himself, just like we’ve got to be loyal to ourselves.”


View Comments