What to do with Marvin?


By Mike Stegall - Contributing Columnist



On Jan. 9, 2016, at 8:15 p.m., the Cincinnati Bengals may have played their last playoff game for a while.

The NFL is an ever-changing landscape with the draft, free agency, retirements, injuries, franchise moves, coaches leaving and TV contracts. Every team is affected every year; the Bengals are no exception.

They have 16 free agents this year including Leon Hall, Andre Smith, Reggie Nelson, Vince Rey, Adam Jones, Marvin Jones and other starters. They can’t keep them all, unless they want salary cap issues in the future. Katy Blackburn is very good with the salary cap; she knows what they can do. With that in mind, this year may be a watershed moment for the team, as more change than normal may take place.

After the debilitating loss Saturday night, one would think that this organization would sit and take stock of itself and see what changes are coming that are out of their control, and those that are under their control.

Those out of their control are the injuries to players that may not be available for the start of the season, those players who will retire, rules changes and staff who take other head coaching jobs. Those in their control include players to keep, coaches to keep, drafting and free agency.

Running a successful NFL franchise is not an easy job. Not only do you have to make major choices in personnel to be successful, including coaches and general managers, you have to consider your fan base.

As tickets, parking and concessions become more expensive, your base will inevitably grow smaller as fewer and fewer of the fans can afford to go to a game. TV money helps offset some of this, but having an empty stadium is never a good look on the national stage. You must keep the stands full, and that means winning.

The biggest move for me is what to do with Marvin Lewis, the coach. He is the face of the franchise, and I think the face seriously needs looked at. I thought I would throw my two cents in on what the Bengals should do with him. You can judge if I would be a lousy GM or not!

In my opinion, he should have been gone eight years ago. Most coaches ask for a five-year contract to run a team as they see fit. Most are gone after three years.

Marvin is a nice man, players like him, and the Bengals owner Mike Brown is loyal to a fault. However, no other team would stick with a coach who in his first five years won at a .525 pace, and in the next five years got worse, winning at a .466 pace.

Why do they keep Marvin? Marvin is not expensive; he makes $4.5 million a year, ranking just below the league average for coaches (19th). That would be great if he would get you to the promised land, but he has failed miserably in doing that. He is the ONLY coach in NFL history to lose his first seven playoff appearances. His winning percentage in 13 years is just .543, hardly glamorous.

Compare that to the other coaches who have been with one team for five years or longer: John Harbaugh, Ravens – .602 win percentage; Mike McCarthy, Packers – .653 win percentage; Bill Belichick, Patriots – .730 win percentage; Sean Payton, Saints – .604 win percentage; and Mike Tomlin, Steelers – .639 win percentage.

Makes Marvin’s record look pretty bad, doesn’t it. After 13 years, and seven playoff failures, why is he still here? Hard to explain, especially if you are an owner who swears he wants to win, as Mike Brown does.

Maybe Mike Brown likes just winning a little, not a lot. As long as fans keep spending, maybe he is happy enough with just getting by. I knew Mike when his dad was coaching the Bengals and had their summer camp in Wilmington. I worked at a radio station there and had two exclusive interviews a day with Paul Brown.

Paul was a winner; he had that fire. Mike was a lawyer; he was handed the assistant GM job. Mike Browns winning percentage is a little over.400. Mike is not his father. His father never kept a losing coach for 13 years, EVER, and no coach more than five. He fired Bill “Tiger” Johnson after two years, and his winning percentage was .545, almost the same as Marvin Lewis’s, and Homer Rice after one year (.296 win percentage! ).

Paul died in August of 1991. Mike has been in charge ever since. Mike’s coaches and their winning percentages have been; Dave Shula – five years -.268; Bruce Coslet – five years – .350; Dick LeBeau – two years- .267; and now Marvin Lewis.

After the debacle that was Saturday night, and the complete lack of control displayed by the team, that along with Marvin’s record should have got him fired on Sunday morning. Player control is a coach’s job, something else he failed at.

Bengal players were speaking Sunday morning to FOX SPORTS personnel, with the promise of confidentiality, about how there is no discipline or accountability on the team. Who is responsible for that? Mike has gone 25 years without a playoff victory, Marvin is 0-7. The players see no accountability for their actions, and Mike has already said Marvin’s job is not in jeopardy.

Does that sound like a GM who wants to win? Do not misunderstand me: Marvin Lewis is a good man. His charity work and his class are undisputed. It’s his head coaching ability I question, and anybody with a bit of common sense would look at the statistics, and his accountability and come to no other conclusion but this; IT IS LONG OVER DUE FOR A CHANGE!

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By Mike Stegall

Contributing Columnist