Legendary coach Bill Walsh believed that after 10 years in one place you should move on to another career opportunity, lest your players or staff tune you out. Now in his 12th season as the Bengals head coach, Lewis is certainly pushing the rules of that theory — and pushing the buttons of others.
On the surface, Lewis is at the peak in his coaching career. He’s currently sitting atop the AFC North and has reached the playoffs in three straight seasons. But not only do those facts mask bigger problems, Lewis himself seems to have become a distraction.
Speaking to the media yesterday, Lewis described potential Sunday opponent Johnny Manziel as a midget. Yes, a midget. Manziel for the record is just a shade under 6’0″, taller than the average American male by about two inches. He’s also taller than all of the following key players in Cincinnati: Giovani Bernard, Darqueze Dennard, Leon Hall, Adam Jones, Reggie Nelson, and Terrance Newman. So how does Lewis feel about those players? Does he tell the 5’9″ Bernard on a daily basis that he’s a smurf that should be traveling with circus freak shows?
What if Lewis had referred to a 250 pound running back as a fat ass? Would that be acceptable? Or what if he had said that defending Cam Newton was more difficult because he was black and could run better than a white? While neither example is a direct parallel, both reinforce the fact that there’s never a good reason to mock someone based on their physical traits or appearance. It’s a lesson Lewis clearly hasn’t learned by now.
While Lewis was obviously trying to make a joke in regards to Manziel — I hope — it’s not the first time this season he’s inserted his foot into his mouth. Earlier this season Lewis said that “because of the media and things, [concussions] seem to linger longer. I don’t know why they linger longer. I don’t remember them lingering like they do now.”
If that’s not about as dumb a thing any coach has said lately, then I don’t know what is. Lewis essentially said that if not for the media then players would probably be back out on the field faster. In that case, thank goodness for the media, because it’s clear a coach like Lewis values players only as chess pieces, and not living, breathing humans with families to support and brains they hope still function in two decades.
If Lewis were holding three Super Bowl rings as a head coach like Bill Belichick, then he’d probably get a pass for comments such as these. But he’s not. In his career Lewis is just a coach with a 0.524 winning percentage, even with his recent success. To put that in some perspective, Jason Garrett ranks above Lewis on the all-time charts, and I’m pretty sure most of America would have fired Garrett a year or two ago. The biggest problem with Lewis though is that he’s a staggering 0-5 in the playoffs as a head coach, proving that he just hasn’t been able to get the most out of his players when it’s crunch time.
Ultimately the Bengals need to let Lewis go. That may sound harsh, but if Lewis hasn’t found the magic touch after 12 seasons in Cincinnati — and nothing indicates he has or will — then there’s nothing left for either side to gain. Frankly, Lewis’ comments this season have made it easier to let him go in my opinion. Of course, fading down the stretch and missing the playoffs entirely would really make this decision an easy one for the Bengals. Then again, so would another playoff disappointment, something Lewis may very well give us as well.