By Mark Carpenter –
Oh I remember it well. Mid- 2000’s and the Bengals were actually relevant again. At the time I was a season-ticket holder and never missed a game, whether the team was good or bad. Outside of the stadium, a vendor was selling buttons for $1 and I bought one, then quickly pinned it right on my Bengals Starter jacket. And what did the button say? Four simple words: “In Marvin We Trust.”
Yep, Marvin Lewis was the toast of the town then, bringing the Bengals back from the depths of NFL despair to a team that was now playing to full houses of rabid, win-starved fans, myself included. I have a hard time remembering what I did yesterday, but I certainly remember what it was like to reside in Bengal Land before Marvin arrived.
Now we know that Marvin will return for his 16th and 17th year as head coach of our beloved Bengals. There isn’t much I can write here that hasn’t been said or written, but I will add that I had it figured all along that he would be returning. My guess is there was a lot of behind-the-scenes maneuvering that went on that we may never know about, and when it all shook out, Mike Brown’s loyalty and inability to accept change won out.
Marvin now says that he will be “starting from scratch.” Can you do that after 15 years? Can you change entirely the way that you do things, the way that you handle players, the way that you prepare for Sunday, the way that you adjust to game situations? That and much more is on Marvin’s plate at the moment, it remains to be seen how he devours that meal.
It is nothing new that the past two seasons have been major disappointments and had the majority of the Bengal fan base clamoring for major changes, beginning with the head coach. The five consecutive playoff appearances (with zero win) was long forgotten in the mode of “What have you done for me lately?” Well, like it or not, Marvin will be back to smile and clap on the sidelines, so prepare to deal with it.
Realistically, the Bengals have a lot of the pieces in place to once again be a contender. Though this past season seemed like a total train wreck, a couple of plays in a couple of close games could have turned the season around, but that is one of the issues of the Marvin era, the inability of his team to make those plays in clutch situations, which ultimately falls back on the head coach. Will that change in the next two seasons?
Already, changes on the coaching staff have been made, with more surely to come. The 12th pick in the draft needs to be someone who can contribute immediately and last year’s number 9 pick needs to actually get on the field, and we could go on and on, but let it suffice to be said that Bengal fans are waiting impatiently. Marvin says that “real” Bengals fans should stay the course. I think maybe we have to find the course first.
The NFL is now down to its final eight teams and it’s safe to say that in their present state, the Bengals don’t really compete with any of them. But they aren’t that far away. Plus look at the bright side. Downtown Cincinnati didn’t host an 0-16 parade.