By Nick Shook
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For much of the last decade and a half in Cincinnati, three things have been constant: the sun rising and setting, winter coming and going, and Marvin Lewis remaining entrenched as the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals.
That’s quietly been questioned in recent years, especially after yet another first-round exit from the playoffs at the end of the 2015 season, and a regression year in 2016 following the departure of several key free agents. The ceiling in the Lewis era seems to be Wild Card playoff berth and prompt end to the campaign.
That isn’t stopping the coach from seeking more security, though.
“We’d like to agree to something at some point,” Lewis said about a desire to receive a contract extension, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It puts, I think, everybody’s mind at ease going forward for their futures. A lot of the people in the building, it makes it easier on them.”
Lewis went on to reiterate his desire to chase a championship in Cincinnati and feels well enough to do so. The bar has been lowered slightly by the down year, but from that season came a bit of encouragement, most notably the development of rookie wideout Tyler Boyd. Plus, the average person would take near-perennial contention and multiple playoff appearances. Ask fans of the Browns and Bengals what they’d give up in exchange for a playoff berth.
But if the Bengals finish out of the playoffs, or sputter to another first-round exit, most on staff will be looking over their shoulders. That last line about folks in the building, then, makes much more sense, as does framing it as being about more than securing Lewis’ own job. It’s about keeping the culture in place, even if the culture hasn’t produced a Lombardi Trophy.
But a team that found more ways to lose in 2016 than in past seasons (and didn’t get help from injuries) needs a bounce-back season, which begins in finding a way to add another playmaker for Andy Dalton, solving the situation at kicker (which flew off the rails when Mike Nugent suddenly lost his accuracy), and bolstering a front seven that finished 21st in rushing yards allowed. Accomplish two of these tasks and it’ll be reasonable to expect to contend for the AFC North in 2017. It’ll also mean a raising of the bar and the increased pressure that comes with it, which will be easier to operate under if not a lame duck coach.