CINCINNATI — Whose call is it?
If I had to guess, I’d say Marvin Lewis is coming back as Bengals coach in 2018. Here's my only question after listening to Lewis talk about his future Monday:
Is that his decision or Mike Brown’s?
“Well, it’s mutual,” Lewis said. “Every decision I’ve made here has been mutual since January of ’03. It has to be that way.”
But the guess here is if Lewis wasn’t coming back he would not have sat before the Cincinnati media and talked for 15 minutes or so.
— WCPO (@WCPO) January 1, 2018
The news out of Bengal-land will be met with with aggressive apathy, i.e., “I’m really trying hard not to care!”
Lewis, of course, was moving on after this season when his contract expired, according to an ESPN report three weeks ago. His call to walk away, the report said. Lewis denied the report. But it still held water in NFL circles.
Bengal fandom was fine with that. Most expected a statement Monday saying the sides had moved on.
But Monday was — at least on the surface — much like any of the other season-ending days in the Lewis’ 15-year tenure as Bengals coach.
Lewis began the press conference with a rehash of the last few weeks of the 2017 season. That lasted for three minutes, 31 seconds. Once the questions began, the elephant in the room was addressed. Lewis and Brown had, indeed, met Monday morning.
“Mike and I met,” Lewis said.
Do you have a timetable?
“No, I don’t,” Lewis said. “I don’t think it will be too long. We’ll continue to talk.
“I wish I could give you more news. But I can’t.”
Maybe Lewis wants some guarantees. Maybe Brown wants some changes. Maybe the cats and dogs are going to start living together. It’s too hard to predict things out of Bengal-land.
Lewis addressed the assistant coaches and their uncertain futures: “It is hard. I met with them this morning about it," he said.
Lewis said he'd keep them in the loop.
"It’s unfortunate that they’re stuck in this limbo. That makes for some urgency as far as both parties. They’re basically free agents as well,” he said.
The assistants are part of overall complicated process Lewis and Brown are dealing with.
“There’s a lot of things,” Lewis said. "People have their viewpoint and I have my viewpoint. The one thing that we've been consistent on since I began here is being on the same page. I think that's important. There's a direction the owner wants to have and there's a direction he's hired me to do a job and we've got to make sure we stay aligned in that. And if his direction is different than my direction, then that's probably not good. We just have to make sure we're all on the same page.”
“First things first. We’ll go from there.”
Lewis said money is not an issue. But Lewis hinted that he wanted certain assurances.
“There are things we both have to feel good about,” Lewis said.
The roster is one of them. Brown did not address the offensive line this offseason. That made it difficult for early success.
“We’re not happy with what transpired this season,” Lewis said. “If I’m here, I’m going to do everything to get us to be world champions. That’s why I do what I do. That’s the hard part.”
Lewis rejected speculation that he would return in any role but head coach.
“I don’t know where these thoughts come from,” he said. “People make things up?”
Lewis did not want to talk specifics about what he wants.
“This is not the time for me to address with the Bengals moving forward,” he said. “(Mike Brown) wants to hear my view, and he’s going to give me his view.”
That’s really the only time Lewis didn’t sound like the returning coach.
The guess here is he’s back. But was it his call or Brown’s?
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.