Lewis voted top coach
NEW YORK — Marvin Lewis had much more than game plans to deal with this season.
Lewis won The Associated Press 2009 NFL Coach of the Year award for guiding his team to the playoffs during a season marked by tragedy.
The Bengals won the AFC North with a 10-6 record, just their second division title since 1990, both under Lewis. They did so despite the deaths of wide receiver Chris Henry and Vikki Zimmer, the wife of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. Several players’ families also were directly affected by the tsunami in the Samoan Islands.
For holding his team together under such circumstances and leading a turnaround from a 4-11-1 record in 2008, Lewis earned 20 1/2 votes Saturday from a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league. He beat Sean Payton of New Orleans (11 1/2), Norv Turner of San Diego (9) and Jim Caldwell of Indianapolis (7). Andy Reid of Philadelphia and Ken Whisenhunt of Arizona had a single vote each.
“I’m flattered,” said Lewis, whose seventh season as Bengals coach ended with a 24-14 home loss to the Jets in the wild-card round. “I never took any credibility to it, that it could occur, but I am flattered. I would trade it to still be playing.
“To me, this is more a recognition of the organization, for the coaching staff and the hard work they’ve done, and for the players.”
Few coaches have dealt with such a season of grief. Vikki Zimmer, who used to bake treats for the players, died unexpectedly in October. Two weeks earlier, defensive linemen Jonathan Fanene and Domata Peko and rookie linebacker Rey Maualuga struggled to contact family in American Samoa after the tsunami devastated the region.