The Cincinnati Bengals looked to be a sinking ship for much of the season, but would seem to have their spirits buoyed by bringing some ill tidings for their rivals, the Baltimore Ravens. Cincinnati was able to sabotage the Ravens’ postseason ambitions by handing them a loss in the season finale with a fourth-and-12 49-yard touchdown for the go-ahead score with under a minute to play. They just announced a two-year extension for their long-tenured and long-suffering head coach.
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) January 2, 2018
In the weeks preceding the close of the 2017 regular season, a report surfaced that Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was looking to step away from the position. It was unclear if he wanted to coach somewhere else or transition to another role, but either seemed a distinct possibility. There was even talk of a succession plan to have Hue Jackson eventually take over as head coach while the latter was still the offensive coordinator with the team heading into the 2016 offseason.
But in spite of the trials and tribulations that have come with attempting to run the Bengals organization, the truth is that Lewis has brought the team more success than most have over the course of the past couple of decades. When he took the head-coaching job in 2003—replacing Dick LeBeau, who would soon become the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive coordinator—he was inheriting a 12-year playoff drought.
That drought dated back to 1990, when Sam Wyche, in his second-to-last season with the team, brought a 9-7 team into the postseason as a division winner, escaping the Wildcard Round but losing in the Divisional Round. Two years earlier, he brought the team to the Super Bowl, but lost.
From 1968, the founding of the franchise in the AFL, to 2002, the Bengals reached the postseason just seven times. Lewis has taken Cincinnati into the postseason seven times during his 15-year tenure with the organization, so it should not be a great shock that Mike Brown is not in a hurry to part ways.
Their greatest period of success coincided with the bottoming out of the 210 season that saw them finish with a 4-12 record. That left them with the fourth slot in the draft and netted them wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton in the first and second rounds.
Lewis, with Green and Dalton leading the way, would take the Bengals into the postseason for five straight years, winning the division twice in that span, but they could never get over the hump of actually winning a game, posting five consecutive losses in the Wildcard Round, most recently to the Steelers in 2015.
In fact, the organization’s most recent playoff victory remains with Wyche’s 1990 unit, and their 27 seasons without a victory is the longest active drought in the NFL, just a year ahead of the Detroit Lions. Detroit has, however, one-upped them with nine straight losses to their eight.
Lewis’ Bengals have failed to make the postseason in each of the past two seasons, however, posting records of 6-9-1 and 7-9. His teams have posted losing seasons five times over the 15-year period, and winning records seven times, with an overall record of 125-112-3.