We here at WDR like to think we are on the cutting edge of criticism when it comes to our Bengals--and, lest anyone think we are a bunch of Steelers fans masquerading as true fans of the Bengals, I assure you we want our boys to win the Super Bowl more than anyone. But, the criticism is not just coming from the hordes of orange-clad fans: resident ESPN analyst and possible mafia boss Sal Paolantonio lambasted Marvin Lewis in a recent column on espn.com. Paolantonio's points are entirely valid and yet another reason that fans should question tired anecdotes like "we'll get 'em next year" and "In Marvin We Trust." He concludes, "So, why all the gushing over Marvin Lewis? He's a good guy who's good with the media. But as a head coach, he's overrated." Paolantonio has done the grunt work here, so I'll let him speak for himself. Take it away, Sally.
The following excerpt comes from espn.com (available here: www.espn.com).
Late last week, Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis opened minicamp with another one of his T-shirt gimmicks -- only this time there was no doubting the sense of urgency in his message. The message on the back of the T-shirt: "Now." QB Carson Palmer said that in a team meeting Lewis provided a translation -- the Bengals had "enough talent in the locker room right now to win the Super Bowl."
Bold words from a head coach who, entering his sixth year at the helm in Cincinnati, has had exactly one season with a winning record. In fact, it's a slogan that Lewis could apply to himself. The Bengals haven't even had a winning record in three seasons. In 2005, they finished 11-5, won the AFC North -- and were one-and-done in the playoffs.
Granted, in that wild-card matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Lewis' star player, Palmer, was knocked out of the game. But the Bengals' defense -- Lewis' supposed strength -- allowed Ben Roethlisberger & Co. to walk up and down the field at will. Big Ben fired three touchdown passes -- the most he's thrown in a playoff game. And the Bengals collapsed, 31-17.
Remember, Lewis got the job in Cincinnati largely on the strength of the reputation he built as the defensive coordinator in Baltimore. In 2000, the Baltimore Ravens' defense was ranked first in the league and set a record for points allowed in a season (165), shutting out the Giants' offense in Super Bowl XXXV. But it's clear that Marvin Lewis had less to do with that defensive performance than Ray Lewis did -- and still does.
In the six seasons Marvin Lewis led the Ravens' defense, it ranked 30th, 27th, 23rd, second, first and fourth in total yards allowed. In the six years since, the Ravens defense has finished 22nd, fourth, sixth, fifth, first, and sixth. Not much difference. In 2006 -- four seasons after Lewis left Baltimore -- the Ravens ranked first in the league in scoring defense, surrendering just 201 points. Last season, the Bengals' defense ranked 27th in total yards allowed.
In Cincinnati, Lewis has a record of 42-38. But he's only 16-24 against teams with a record of .500 or better. He's 26-14 against teams with a losing record. Last season, the Bengals beat only two teams that finished with a winning record and only one of them, the Tennessee Titans, squeaked into the postseason.
Critics of the Bengals are always quick to blame stingy ownership responsible for a bare bones scouting department that has drafted some of the worst problem children in recent NFL history. True enough. But many coaches would sacrifice their Cadillac SUVs for the talent that Lewis has had at key offensive positions, including left tackle, wide receiver and quarterback -- especially QB.
If Palmer were in the NFC, he'd be the best quarterback in the conference. He is a player of immense talent who should have been in a position to compete for a Super Bowl title by -- pun intended -- "now." So, why all the gushing over Marvin Lewis? He's a good guy who's good with the media. But as a head coach, he's overrated.