January 14, 2003: Bengals hire Marvin Lewis
Mark Curnutte, Enquirer from that day
POINT CLEAR, Ala. - Marvin Lewis, introduced Tuesday night at a resort hotel here as the ninth Bengals head coach, promised to bring a blue-collar work ethic and discipline to a struggling team and organization..........Linebacker Takeo Spikes, one of the Bengals' top stars, will be a free agent when his contract expires on March 3. He said he respects Lewis but is skeptical that one person alone can change the atmosphere surrounding the team,"It's like having a cold," Spikes said of the hire. "You're treating the symptoms, not trying to cure it."....Other candidates interviewed were Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, former Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin and Bengals assistant coaches Mark Duffner and Jim Anderson.
*****I WROTE THIS TWO YEARS AGO
Bengals: Marvin's place in franchise history
Franchise history: 363-.452-5 (.448). Postseason: 5-14.
There have been 10 coaches in the 53 year history of the Bengals. Where does Marvin Lewis rank among the 10 coaches that have led the franchise?
Lewis regular season: 131-122-3 (.518) Postseason: 0-7. Overall: 131-129-3 (.504)
We will leave Homer Rice, David Shula, Dick LeBeau and Bruce Coslet out of our conversation. Those four coaches were a combined 60-143 (.296) in parts of 15 seasons with the Bengals. We will leave Zac Taylor out due to the small sample size.
And no disrespect to Bill 'Tiger' Johnson but he was head coach for just two plus seasons. He went 10-4 in his first season, but thing went downhill from there, going 8-6 in 1977 to 0-5 in 1978 before he stepped down. His 18-15 record is the second best winning percentage (.545) in franchise history. He did not lead the Bengals to the postseason.
This leaves the debate between four coaches: Lewis, Paul Brown, Forrest Gregg and Sam Wyche.
Here is my ranking of the four candidates:
1. Paul Brown brought the NFL to Cincinnati. He coached the youngest expansion team to ever win a pro sports title, winning the AFC Central in 1970 in the Bengals third season of existence. He was named NFL Coach of the Year for his efforts. His teams made the postseason three times in his eight seasons, winning two division titles. He coached in an era with just four playoff spots in each conference. He did not have a losing season in his final four seasons, going 36-20 (.643) with two playoff appearances. His 11-3 record in his final season (1975) remains the best season winning percentage in franchise history (.786). He gets major credit for building the organization from the ground up.
2. Forrest Gregg came to Cincinnati in 1980 as a no-nonsense disciplinarian. He led the Bengals to their first Super Bowl appearance in his second season. Gregg coached the Bengals four seasons, compiling the best winning percentage (.557) in franchise history. Despite having a year remaining on his contract, Gregg left the Bengals following the 1983 season to sign a five-year deal with Packers. His four year stay in town is four years shorter than any other candidate. But the discipline he instilled, his overall winning record and the first Super Bowl appearance in team history carries weight to lift him to No. 2.
3. Sam Wyche, a former Bengals QB (1968-1970), replaced Gregg as coach. He was an animated, emotional coach, known for his cutting edge innovations and unconventional play-calling. He took the Bengals to their second Super Bowl appearance. But just three seasons later the Bengals plunged to 3-13 in 1991 and Wyche was out. While he owns a losing record, I'd argue the Bengals were more relevant in Wyche's time than any other period in team history, from the Sugar Huddle and 'You Don't Live in Cleveland' to the Ickey Shuffle and a classic Super Bowl.
4. Marvin Lewis inherited a 2-14 mess and by his third season (2005) had the Bengals back in the playoffs for the first time since 1990. He restored credibility to the franchise and raised the bar of expectations, getting the Bengals to the playoffs for five consecutive seasons. He 'rebooted' the team from a 4-11-1 season (2008) to the playoffs in 2009. He then turned around a 4-12 season in 2010 to the five straight playoff appearances. His seven playoff appearances equal the combined total of Brown, Gregg and Wyche. It's tough to downgrade a resume that includes Lewis being the longest tenured coach, with the most wins and the most playoff appearances in franchise history. I hesitate to reward longevity when his time was driven by Mike Brown's resistance to change. It's impossible to elevate him beyond 4th with his NFL record setting postseason failures (0-7).
Marvin Lewis 16, Paul Brown 8, Sam Wyche 8, Forrest Gregg 4
Overall record/winning percentage
Forrest Gregg 34-27 (.557)
Marvin Lewis 131-122-3 (.518)
Sam Wyche 64-68 (.485)
Paul Brown 55-59-1 (.482)
Marvin Lewis: 7 (0-7)
Paul Brown: 3 (0-3)
Sam Wyche: 2 (3-2)
Forrest Gregg: 2 (2-2)
Marvin Lewis 7 of 16 (.437)
Sam Wyche 3 of 8 (.375)
Paul Brown 4 of 8 (.500)
Forrest Gregg 2 of 4 (.500)
Sam Wyche 3, Forrest Gregg 2, Paul Brown 0, Marvin Lewis 0
Marvin Lewis 4, Paul Brown 2, Sam Wyche 2, Forrest Gregg 1
AFC titles/Super Bowl appearances
Sam Wyche 1, Forrest Gregg 1, Paul Brown 0, Marvin Lewis 0
How would you rank these four coaches? Join our conversation HERE.