Bengals give Lewis 2-year contract extension

Published 12:48 am Wednesday, August 1, 2012

CINCINNATI (AP) — Bengals coach Marvin Lewis agreed to a two-year contract extension through the 2014 season on Tuesday, giving him more chances to pursue the elusive goal of winning a playoff game.

Lewis already holds the club record for tenure as a head coach, entering his 10th season. Owner Mike Brown offered the extension even though the Bengals are 69-74-1 under Lewis with only three winning records and an 0-3 mark in the playoffs.

Asked if he would still be head coach if he were the owner, Lewis laughed.

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“Probably not,” he said.

Lewis works for an owner who isn’t inclined to change. Brown prefers to stay the course rather than try something significantly different, one of the obstacles that Lewis has had to overcome during his time in Cincinnati.

When he arrived in 2003, the Bengals were in the midst of one of the worst streaks of futility in league history — no winning record since 1990. They broke the streak by reaching the playoffs in 2005, only to lose to Pittsburgh in a first-round playoff game when quarterback Carson Palmer tore up his knee.

They reached the playoff again in 2009, then lost to the Jets. They made the playoffs as a wild card last season with a 9-7 mark and lost to Houston.

Although the team has been more competitive under Lewis, it still hasn’t won a playoff game since 1990.

“It’s gratifying, obviously, to have that opportunity to be in place here now for 12 seasons,” Lewis said. “But at the end of the line there is one thing that hangs over your head, and you’ve got to do that, and that’s to win a championship.”

Lewis is third in the NFL in current tenure with one team, behind Philadelphia’s Andy Reid and New England’s Bill Belichick.

By agreeing to an extension before the start of the season, Lewis eliminated the uncertainty that hung over the franchise in 2010. The Bengals finished 4-12 that year, the last on Lewis’ previous deal. He decided to play it out rather than accept an extension, looking to see if ownership would make some changes before he decided whether to stay.

After two days of talks at the end of the season, he agreed to a two-year deal even though Brown said there would be no significant changes. For instance, Cincinnati is still the only northern NFL team without a covered practice field.

Lewis likes the way the front office has changed over the years. A team once known for acquiring players who didn’t fit their system has been much better at acquiring those who fit the system.

“Obviously we’ve gotten better since I first walked in this room in January 2003,” Lewis said. “There’s been an evolution. I think everybody who ever walks out on that practice field — talking about visiting coaches and so forth — they’ve talked about that.

“This is a very good-looking football team. It’s big and it’s fast. That’s kind of a metamorphosis from where we started. It’s something the organization ought to be very, very proud of, that we really have converted into what an NFL team looks like in size and girth and speed and length, the things you want to have in order to be successful.”


Freelance reporter Joe Reedy in Cincinnati contributed to this report.