COMMENTARY: Cincinnati Bengals bringing back Marvin Lewis boggles the mind

The Cincinnati Bengals announced late Tuesday afternoon they don’t care about winning or selling tickets.

The second part is a lot more surprising than the first (to be honest).

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OK, these things weren’t spelled out specifically in the press release confirming Marvin Lewis will be back as the team’s coach next fall, but they didn’t have to be.

While Lewis did a lot of good things in his first 15 years coaching the Bengals, he hasn’t made it to the second weekend of the playoffs, let alone a championship game of any sort.

Fans already started voting with their feet as the team finished 31st in home attendance this season, outdrawing only the essentially homeless Chargers, who played their home games in a soccer stadium less than half the size of Paul Brown Stadium.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think fans should be calling the shots. That would be a disaster because fans are emotional and make rash decisions.

And I’m not going to tell anyone how to spend their money, but it’s beyond me why anyone would do so for a team that doesn’t seem interested in getting better.

(And of course that doesn’t mean giving up one’s fandom. It’s very easy to follow the team without spending money on it.)

But the plethora of empty seats likely to be found at Paul Brown Stadium next season will be totally justified because fans have good reason to be fed up with what they’ve seen.

For years I was one of those, “Be careful what you wish for…” people when it came to firing Lewis. 

His accomplishments are important, and they should be appreciated.

They indicate he is (or at least was) a good coach.

He knows talent.

He’s done a good job constructing a staff multiple times.

But the inability to get over the hump when it comes to big games really has to be a dealbreaker at some point, right?

Especially when the team regresses two years in a row?

(They won half a game more than last season but faced a weaker schedule and dropped from 13th to 24th in Football Outsiders total DVOA.)

There will be time to pick this decision apart all winter, but my first reaction is that this is all mind-boggling.

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Does Lewis’ return mean Mike Brown has concluded none of the things that have gone wrong the last two years are the coach’s fault?

If not him, then whom?

Why play the games if it doesn’t matter if you win or lose or how you look doing so?

This is all just bizarre.

Moving on from Lewis certainly brings some risk, but as when Dusty Baker was fired by the Reds, doesn’t it feel like going forward with him no longer includes any positives?

Is Brown simply that averse to change he can’t stand the thought of seeing if the locker room would react better to a new voice?

There are a lot of good players — many of them fairly young — on this roster, but this team had no juice all year.

Even though the Bengals botched the draft and free agency, there was reason to be excited when the season began because it was a clean slate from last year and the schedule seemed to present some opportunities.

Then they laid a complete egg on opening day at home against the Ravens. A dreadful performance from start to finish headlined by the play of the alleged franchise quarterback.

Then they lost to a banged-up Texans team with a rookie quarterback starting his first game.

Houston won without even playing well.

The rest of the season was pretty much a root canal thanks to that start.

The offensive coordinator was fired, which was reason to cheer given how un-reactive the Bengals typically are, but alas the move to Bill Lazor only half fixed the offense.

As in, the team was generally only good for about 30 minutes a week before completely collapsing.

The defense was pretty good all year — even as injuries piled up late — but now come reports coordinator Paul Guenther is leaving, so what will become of that unit?

That’s also interesting when considering staff turnover was one of the excuses cited for the team’s disappointing 2016.

It has been suggested Lewis staying could mean less say for Brown and more say for Lewis, which could be a net positive.

But we’ve heard that line before, and while the results of the 2011 reboot were promising for a while, the ceiling wasn’t really any higher than the first eight years.

Is there any reason to believe it will be different now?

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