Bengals' Lewis not feeling on defensive

Is he worried about future? 1-9-1 Cincy coach says no

November 27, 2008|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,edward.lee@baltsun.com

Marvin Lewis' primary concern is motivating his 1-9-1 Bengals to finish the season on a positive note, beginning with Sunday's contest against the Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

How much longer Lewis, the Cincinnati coach, will be entrusted with that responsibility is another issue.

The Bengals are in the midst of one of their poorest seasons in recent memory and are in danger of having a worse record than the 2002 squad's 2-14, which stands as the worst mark in franchise history.

But if Lewis, a former defensive coordinator for the Ravens, is feeling the heat from sitting on the proverbial hot seat, he's not conceding anything.

"I can't worry about that," said Lewis, who is signed through the 2010 season. "It's really nothing that bothers me nor is it in my hands or whatever. So there's really no reason for me to worry about it or spend any time thinking about it."

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said he is not surprised that his former mentor is shrugging off the speculation. "He's not that type of guy," Lewis said.

Marvin Lewis is one of eight head coaches in the NFL rumored to be in jeopardy of losing his job. The others are Romeo Crennel (Cleveland Browns), Rod Marinelli (Detroit Lions), Jack Del Rio (Jacksonville Jaguars), Herman Edwards (Kansas City Chiefs), Tom Cable (Oakland Raiders), Andy Reid (Philadelphia Eagles) and Jim Haslett (St. Louis Rams).

Lewis' tenure wasn't always so uncertain. After back-to-back 8-8 campaigns in 2003 (Lewis finished second behind the New England Patriots' Bill Belichick for NFL Coach of the Year) and 2004, Cincinnati went 11-5 in 2005 and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 1988.

But the Bengals haven't sniffed the playoffs since, which has befuddled the players.

"After 2005, if you looked at all of our guys, we were all young, we were just getting into the prime or the middle of our careers, and for me, it was just starting," Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said. "You would have thought that for the next four or five or six years, [we] would have been someone like Indianapolis, and it hasn't been that way."

In Lewis' first five seasons, the Bengals compiled a 42-38 mark and joined Forrest Gregg (34-27) and Bill Johnson (18-15) as the only head coaches in franchise history with winning records.

But this season, Cincinnati has already matched Lewis' worst loss total (last year's team went 7-9) and lost the first eight games before edging the Jacksonville Jaguars, 21-19, on Nov. 2.

Houshmandzadeh said the players have sensed Lewis' level of annoyance with the team's performance.

"You know he's frustrated. Anybody that gets into this profession - coaches all the way down to the players - everybody wants to win," Houshmandzadeh said. "But when you're the head coach, you can't really show your frustration. I think maybe you go home and tell your wife, but you really can't bring it to the players. You're frustrated after the game when you lose, but when you come in the next day, you have to get over it because if we see that he's still frustrated, it might start to rub off on guys, and you don't want that."

If the Brown family elects to fire Lewis, his downfall could be linked to his inability to build a defense like the one that he oversaw in Baltimore that set the NFL record in 2000 for fewest points surrendered during a 16-game regular season.

Under Lewis, the Bengals defense's best ranking was 19th in 2004 and has been ranked 27th or lower in four of his six seasons in Cincinnati.

Injuries have been a factor. The team had 18 players on injured reserve in 2004, lost four defensive starters in 2007 and has waded through this season with 15 players on IR (including six starters) and without two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Palmer (elbow ligament damage).

But Lewis refused to take the bait and pin the team's misfortunes on injuries.

"We've had some injuries, but I think that happens to every team," he said. "You've got to find a way to overcome it."

Ravens offensive tackle Willie Anderson, who spent his first 12 years in Cincinnati, said observers hungry to see a Lewis blow-up are going to be sorely disappointed.

"Frustrating you guys, he kind of thrives off of that," Anderson said. "You guys are never going to get an emotional letdown from him because of what's been said about him. That's one thing that he always did a good job of."

RAVENS (7-4) @BENGALS (1-9-1)

Sunday, 1 p.m. TV: Ch. 13

Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

Line: Ravens by 7

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