Fired, retired or back to where they came: How Bengals coaches have exited in the past


Sunday figures to go down as a strange day in Cincinnati Bengals history

No, not because they were blasted by the Minnesota Vikings

That would be because after the game Marvin Lewis refuted a pregame report he won’t be back as the head coach of the Bengals next season. 

Adding to the intrigue: ESPN reported the choice was made by Lewis. 

RELATED: Where did it go wrong with the Bengals and Marvin Lewis?

How the Lewis era officially ends in Cincinnati remains to be seen, but it will have some competition to be the weirdest whenever that day comes. 

Here’s a look at how the previous eight coaching tenures ended for the Queen City’s NFL franchise:

Paul Brown — Retired after 1975 season

OK, this one wasn’t too strange. The legendary coach decided he was done after the 1975 season. 

Bill “Tiger” Johnson — Fired in midseason 

Brown’s hand-picked successor turned out to be a dud. After an 0-5 start to his third season, Brown announced that Johnson and the club had mutually agreed to part ways. 

Homer Rice — Quit to go back to college

Johnson’s replacement finished the 1978 season but hung around for only one more. Then he spurned Brown and the Bengals for a position as director of athletics at Georgia Tech. 

Could you imagine that happening today? 

Forrest Gregg - Quit to go back to the Packers

Think working for Brown was hard? Rice told Sports Illustrated in Nov. 1979 he was happy with his working arrangement, and Gregg (a former Packers player) said Green Bay was the only other place he’d rather be, but one still has to wonder. 

Sam Wyche - Depends who you ask 

He told the media he was fired by Mike Brown during a meeting on Christmas Eve in 1991, but the team claimed he quit.

This was only four months after Paul Brown’s death. 

Dave Shula - Fired midseason  

For those who think the Bengals have never been progressive in making a coaching move since Paul Brown’s death, here is one counter argument. The only one, as it turns out.

Shula followed four straight losing seasons before a respectable 7-9 season, but a 1-6 start to 1996 earned him a ticket out of town. 

Bruce Coslet - Resigned midseason  

The former Bengals player and offensive coordinator turned in one of the most exciting stretches of any season in the mid- or late-1990s by going 7-2 after replacing Shula, but he couldn’t sustain that.

Mike Brown said he was surprised Coslet quit and admitted maybe he should have given him more to work with

Dick LeBeau — Fired after the season  

Like Lewis this year, LeBeau went into 2002 without a contract extension. The decision not to bring him back after a 2-14 season, the worst in franchise history, didn’t surprise anyone. 

The news was accompanied by Mike Brown stating he would not change how the team had been run since he took over for his father even as multiple current players wondered aloud if he should. 

In a move reminiscent of some of his predecessors, LeBeau ended up back where he had known success before. In his case, it was coordinating successful defenses for the Steelers. 

Marvin Lewis — ?? 

The Bengals have two games left — at home against the Detroit Lions and at the Baltimore Ravens, the team Lewis helped win a Super Bowl in 2000 as defensive coordinator.

Could that be his last game on the Bengals sideline?

RELATED: Lewis denies report he has decided not to return

READ MORE: Some potential replacements if Lewis goes

If Lewis walks away, he would be at least the fourth to do so (not counting Paul Brown’s retirement). 

If he is fired, he’d be No. 4 to get that treatment. 

And if it come to an end without anyone really knowing how? Well that wouldn’t be exactly be a first, either. 


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