Marvin Lewis returning to be head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals still doesn’t make sense, but he did as much as he could to change that perception in an hour or less Wednesday.
Scratch that: Someone claiming to be Marvin Lewis did as much as he could to change the perception of his rehiring on Wednesday.
It looked like the man who has been the on-field leader of the franchise since 2003, but it sure didn’t sound like him — at least not compared to most of the rest of the time he spent in front of a mic since the start of the season.
While 2017 Regular Season Marvin Lewis was mostly terse and dour, 2018 Offseason Marvin Lewis is apparently jovial and engaging.
How about that?
He started the second reboot of his Bengals tenure (2011 was the first) by referencing the beginning, saying he’s a better coach now than he was then (without offering evidence) but also that he has to continue to improve.
The latter part probably could have been left unstated since the team is coming off consecutive losing seasons, but it’s good to be thorough.
The start of the press conference wasn’t much different than usual in terms of mood.
What seemed to get him fired up was a question about whether or not his boss for the last 15 seasons (and the next two) really wants to win.
That’s a long-held criticism of owner Mike Brown, who took over the team from his legendary father, Paul, in time for a disastrous decade that still colors the perception of the franchise even today.
“No doubt in my mind that Mike Brown’s goal is to be world champions, and I think, ya know, we spent the last two days spending time three or four times talking about what we felt like, where we needed to get better, why, and what now.
“I think that’s the only thing the man thinks about, is having a championship organization,” said Lewis, though again there isn’t much evidence it’s true.
SPORTS TODAY PM RT: More on Marvin Lewis and the Bengals staying together, Ohio State football's future after a Cotton Bowl win and what's been happening with local college basketball squads https://t.co/f3R4hAz9sm pic.twitter.com/guSBI0fmBl— daytonsports (@daytonsports) January 3, 2018
It’s certain that Brown wants to win to some measurable degree that is more than zero. The better question is probably if he’s willing to make the sacrifices necessary.
Retaining Lewis, who has more wins as Bengals coach than anyone else but also the most postseason losses without a win in NFL history, is a pretty good sign of that.
Lewis can win, but can he win it all?
Surprisingly enough, we’re going to get another chance or two (or more?) to find out.
Maybe he really does have a new lease on life, at least from a career standpoint, but talk is cheap.
It’s too early to reverse the spin cycle, right?
The record is still the record. The last playoff win is still in 1991.
That said, a new year is coming.
Some things will be different.
The roster has a lot of good parts, and it could gain more.
If there was anything tangible to pull out of Lewis’ 40 minutes with the media Wednesday, it was a hint they might hit free agency harder than they typically have.
In a possible nod to where things really started to go wrong in 2017, he said they need to do a better job evaluating what is available in the draft and targeting free agents at positions of need where the draft is weak.
It’s hard to hear that comment without thinking about the way free agency left the offensive line decimated only for the team to find few candidates to take early in the draft to replace free-agent losses Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler.
He’s right to be excited about the playmakers at wide receiver, and he noted he was happy to see rookie running back Joe Mixon play through an injury in the season finale because that should earn him some cred with his teammates.
Who knows — that might be more important in the Bengals locker room than in some others where the coach has a heavier touch.
Or, hey, maybe now that Lewis has a second new lease on life as the coach in Cincinnati, the mood will be different from now on. Maybe that will even carry over to the locker room, which was rarely very enthusiastic last fall.
But let’s be real. How long will the New Marvin last?
Probably not long.
The rest of the press conference was mostly platitudes about having to play better. Work harder. Do your job, etc.
”We’re not where we want to be yet, but we’re gonna get there,” was the last thing Lewis said.