CINCINNATI (AP) — Any other NFL team would be starting the season with a new head coach.
A playoff meltdown against Pittsburgh left Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis 0-7 in the postseason, a mark that would get anybody else fired.
Owner Mike Brown doesn’t even think of it that way.
Asked on Tuesday why he’s so patient with a coach who has such a horrible record in the playoffs, Brown turned the question around. He mentioned the five straight playoff appearances, something only three other teams have accomplished in the same span.
“I like Marvin,” the 80-year-old owner said. “I think he’s a good coach. We work well together. We’ve had our form of success. The team’s in a good position. And I would reverse the question: Why would you want to fire Marvin Lewis after all he’s done? I think he’s earned his spot.”
Lewis has done a lot to help Brown resuscitate his team during their 13-year allegiance. The Bengals were historically bad before Lewis was hired in 2003. Two years later, he got them to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.
He’s gotten the Bengals to the playoffs seven times overall and lost all seven games, the most consecutive playoff losses by a head coach in NFL history. Cincinnati has lost a first-round game each of the past five seasons, another NFL record — no other team has dropped more than three straight.
The loss last season was the most stinging. The Bengals self-destructed in the final minute at home against the Steelers, with personal foul penalties on Vontaze Burfict and Adam “Pacman” Jones moving Pittsburgh into range for a field goal and an 18-16 victory.
Instead of getting fired, Lewis got an extra year added to his contract, which now runs through the 2017 season.
“Why? Because we trust in him, we believe in him, we think he’s a good coach,” Brown said before the team’s preseason luncheon.
“We’ve had a good run. And yes, at the end it conspired against us, but those games were very close. They were decided by a play or two and maybe the next time if we get there — it’s hard to get there — but if we get there, maybe the ball will bounce our way finally. I like to think it will.”
Lewis acknowledges that he’d likely be fired anywhere else. For now, his job is as safe as any in the league. Brown wants to keep him, and Lewis wants to keep trying to win a playoff game.
“I’ve not been interested in moving any place,” Lewis said. “It’s that simple. It’s a two-way street.”
Although Lewis and quarterback Andy Dalton are the faces most closely associated with the franchise, Brown is the one with whom it’s most closely identified. He took over when his father, Paul, died shortly before the start of the 1991 season. The Bengals were coming off a playoff appearance that included a first-round win over the Houston Oilers.
They haven’t won a playoff game since then, giving them the sixth-longest streak of postseason futility in NFL history. During Cincinnati’s lost decade of the 1990s, fans brought anti-Brown banners to games and put anti-Brown bumper stickers on their cars.
Brown joked on Tuesday about a Bengals employee that recently saw one of those bumper stickers around town.
“(He) was telling me he got behind a pretty beat-up truck that had a bumper sticker along the lines that he was for Trump, and then there was a worn-out sticker on the bumper down below that said ‘Mike Brown Still Stinks,’” Brown said.
“So I’ve never gotten free and clear of how people see me, but the team has made real progress. The team is seen in the community in a good way, I think.”
Asked if he thinks he’ll ever be considered beloved in the community, Brown laughed.
“What the heck,” he said. “I’m in a business where there’s gonna be someone to kick around, as Nixon once said. ‘You don’t have me to kick around anymore’ — you remember his speech? I’m happy to be kicked around. I’m still here. So go at it if you will.”
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