As far as the head coaches in Pittsburgh and Baltimore are concerned, their positions have remained fairly static, each having stability and security in their positions as two of the longest-tenured head coaches in the league. When it comes to the Ohio teams, however, there has been more going on, and, evidently, they are more connected than many first realized, at least according to a report filed by Mike Silver for NFL Network.
As I wrote about yesterday, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was just given a one-year extension on his contract that carries him through the 2017 season. The 2017 season will be the final year before Lewis will turn 60.
Not long after the Bengals’ postseason loss to the Steelers—the fifth consecutive season in which his team has been one-and-done in the playoffs—the second-longest-tenured head coach in the league seemed to allude to the possibility that he would weigh the prospects of retirement, but later in the offseason suggested otherwise. The extension would support that.
But according to Silver, Lewis is much closer to the idea of stepping down from the coaching ranks than it would seem. He claims that the 57-year-old went to Bengals owner Mike Brown during the embryonic period of extension discussions and presented him with the proposal that part of his deal include a succession plan, in writing for then-Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson to take over the head coaching role in two years.
It was a plan that Jackson was evidently on board with, and looked forward to the possibility of coaching in Cincinnati, but Brown was apparently not willing to put that in writing, which is understandable considering the variables that could transpire in that span of time.
But we’ve also seen how that can go for coaches, with Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler having a handshake agreement to succeed Dick LeBeau in that capacity, an agreement that took years longer than one might have projected before it was made good.
Without the written assurance of a clear succession plan, Jackson—a budding hot commodity as a freshman head coaching prospect for a couple of years—ended up agreeing to stay in-state, becoming the latest in a long line of men to coach the Cleveland Browns instead, so Brown will get the opportunity to see firsthand how Jackson is as a head coach twice a season.
As for Lewis, entering his 14th season as a head coach, it seems that his aspirations outside of the short-term do not see him living out his days in that role, and there have been indications that he would like to transition into a front office role, so one wonders if the Bengals might be in the market for a new coach in 2018.