The NFL's second-longest tenured coach, Marvin Lewis, is returning to Cincinnati with a two-year contract extension through 2019, the team announced Tuesday.
"My job is to win a World Championship," Lewis said in a statement. "We have a talented roster full of veteran leaders and emerging young stars and I am committed to making the necessary improvements to put this team in the best position to win.”
Lewis, who just wrapped up a 7-9 campaign — his 15th at the Bengals' helm — said Monday he and the club had "mutual interest in extending their relationship." He also admitted it was a "complicated" situation, and reading between the lines, we surmised his return could require receiving more control over the roster.
Lewis (125-112-3) in 2003 took over a 2-14 team coming off its 12th consecutive non-playoff season and has led the Bengals to the postseason in seven of the past 13 seasons. But he's still seeking his first playoff victory and has been on the outside of the postseason looking in the past two years.
Rather than hiring a new coach for the first time in a decade-and-a-half, the Bengals apparently decided Lewis' total body of work, not just his postseason goose egg, merited bringing him back. It's worth noting Mike Brown eschewed the Bengals' seemingly annual tradition of giving Lewis a one-year extension for a slightly longer commitment.
It'll be interesting to see whether the latest extension brings with it a change in the club's philosophy on roster construction, including gambling on high-risk, high-reward players, some of whom have demonstrated their volatility on the Bengals' biggest stages. Vontaze Burfict's and Adam Jones' wild-card round meltdown two years ago at Heinz Field immediately comes to mind, but those are just the most recent instances.
Lewis is right in saying the Bengals have a nice blend of youth and veterans on the roster, and it's possible that a quick turnaround is achievable with a few key roster moves — namely along the offensive line, where Cincinnati failed to adequately replace free-agent departures Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler last offseason.
After getting blown out in Weeks 14-15 by the Bears and Vikings, respecitvely, the Bengals showed fight at the end of their embattled coach's contract year, eliminating the Lions and Ravens from postseason contention in the final two weeks. It's possible the spirited finish to the season, which began with Lewis firing one of his oldest lieutenants, Ken Zampese, after just two games, helped compel the Brown family to retain him.
It's also possible — likely, even — that ripping off the Band-Aid and starting anew would do a Bengals club that can't seem to get over the hump more good. Less than one hour after they announced Lewis' return, a CBS report surfaced indicating defensive coordinator Paul Guenther won't return.
Losing talented coordinators — including Coach of the Year candidate, Minnesota's Mike Zimmer, and Washington head coach Jay Gruden — over the past several years has been one of the Bengals' biggest issues.