The Cincinnati Bengals have given Marvin Lewis their annual vote of confidence by extending his contract by another year, adding 2017 to his contract. Good or bad coaching, whether he last that long or beyond that has a lot to do with his quarterback, Andy Dalton.
Lewis is the second longest tenured head coach in the NFL behind Bill Belichick, coaching the Bengals since 2003. However, despite his 112-94-2 regular-season record over 13 seasons that include making the playoffs seven times, he’s yet to lead the Bengals to a postseason win. They’ve gone 0-7 in his time, including every year since drafting Andy Dalton. This season Dalton was injured and didn’t play, and the Bengals managed to find a way to lose at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers with a late field goal thanks to two dumb penalties.
The Bengals would have made it through for the first time in over a generation’s worth of time if it wasn’t for Dalton’s injury. A.J. McCarron did a decent job of filling in for him, but Dalton stepped up last season. Maybe it was the contract he got from the team, but it was probably him improving, while the Bengals also found a much better way of using him. A.J. Green has always been one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. Tyler Eifert emerging as one of the more productive tight ends tipped the scale in the Bengals direction, and especially Dalton’s.
How do you measure a head coach’s success? Regular season wins? Playoff wins? Super Bowls? Making the most of the talent you have? I guess it comes down to a couple of things: The expectations at the beginning of a season or a certain process (Sam Hinkie isn’t the only one who does those) and answering the question of whether a different available coach would have done a better job.
For now, Lewis is safe, but the Bengals have been doing a good job of loading up on talent on both sides of the ball. Nothing lasts forever in the NFL, and the status of the Bengals-Lewis hourglass might not be looking as good after a fourth playoff loss in four years, even with the Dalton injury. At some point, all the things Marvin Lewis does well won’t be able to balance the scales against the underachieving finishes.