Heading into his 15th season with Bengals, Marvin Lewis is ready for a playoff win

Tanya O'Rourke sits down with Bengals head coach
Posted at 12:00 PM, Jan 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-10 19:28:10-05

CINCINNATI -- Marvin Lewis is the longest-tenured coach in Bengals history. He's also the longest-tenured NFL head coach without a playoff win.

But Lewis is confident that will change in his 15th season leading the Bengals. In an exclusive interview with WCPO, he said he planned to "erase" that legacy of winless playoff appearances with a championship.

"You want to win the Super Bowl," Lewis said. "But, it's not just for me -- but for everybody else."

And the pressure could be on for Lewis to win. His contract is up after next season.

"We're only promised next year," Lewis said. "So that's all that matters."

Strategy to win

Keeping players long term is a big part of how Lewis plans to win a Super Bowl. He has seen other teams change their plans again and again, getting nowhere in the process.

Lewis looks on from the sidelines against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on September 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

"We know our plan," Lewis said. "We know how we do things, how we choose players, how we coach and mature players. But when you continue to change, you're always changing players, you're always changing scheme, and the whole overhaul never gets you forward because you keep moving backward."

Looking back at the Bengals' last playoff loss, 18-16 against Pittsburgh last January, Lewis said he saw where work was needed.

"It hurt, because our guys for the most part had fought their way back in the game, and then we had things transpire, or conspire -- some of our own doing -- that kept us from winning the football game," he said.

But even with the offseason ahead of him, Lewis is looking at how to more his team forward.

"I can't wallow in it. I can't be sad about I can't pout about it," he said. "I've got to pick up the pieces and redirect everybody in the right direction almost immediately."

After this season, Lewis said the team needs to score more and keep its momentum in the fourth quarter.

Even though the team didn't make the playoffs and in some areas regressed, Lewis saw improvement in other areas.

"We never made any plays that put us into position to win the games as we were getting going this season, but we had a season where we were second lowest in penalties, where...our giveaway margin was very low," Lewis said. "Those are important. There are a lot of things we did positively."


Golf and the art of coaching football

Lewis doesn't just know football. He's an avid golfer, and he said some of the lessons he's picked up on the course are just as valuable on the gridiron.


"It's technique, it's style, it's repetition," he said. "But the best thing it gives me is a chance to think."

Lewis wasn't always interested in golf. He played a little while coaching at the college level, but then he was "more interested in fishing the balls out of the beautiful streams in the bottom of the Snake River Canyon there in Idaho."

But later, working under Dick LeBeau for the Steelers, Lewis learned a lot about golf and his interest in the game grew. It was LeBeau, who Lewis would later replace as Bengals head coach after the 2-14 2000 season, who helped Lewis pick out his first set of clubs.

In the years since, Lewis has found parallels between success in golf and football.

"It's a technical thing. You have to do it repetitively correct, all the time," he said. "I talk to our guys about those kind of things. You talk about a golfer and his swing. When he has a 180-yard shot, he pulls that club from his bag and he expects that ball to fly 180 yards every single time...That's what it's about in football. We have to expect the same thing from you all the time."

Will 'Pacman' return?

Adam Jones has said Lewis "saved (his) life."

Lewis is a sort of father figure for his players. He doesn't just coach them on the field. He gives them advice for how to act off the field.

"Any confrontation, right, wrong or indifferent, you are not going to be the one that people think is correct," Lewis said he tells his players.

Jones wasarrested Jan. 3 and charged with assaultrelated to an incident with a security guard at a Downtown hotel. It was the latest in a string of arrests dating back to his college days at West Virginia. While Jones had not had any run-ins with law enforcement in the last several years, the arrest has prompted questions of whether Jones will return to the Bengals next season.

"A lot of the positives that Adam has had in his life -- if things transpire wrongly -- could be all washed away," Lewis said.

He said the Bengals' leaders would consider "the best thing for the club moving forward." But they are waiting to see what happens in the case before making a decision.

"When people are around Adam, people try to take certain advantages of him at times," Lewis said. "We've already seen that in his past, since he's been in Cincinnati. He ends up being kind of a lightning rod for people trying to take advantage in the other two instances he's had here."


Will A.J. McCarron be traded for a first-round draft pick?

"It sounds good, but that's not the reality of it," Lewis said.

He said no team had "legitimately" approached the Bengals about a trade for McCarron in the past year.

"I know that he will have an opportunity to have a starting quarterback in the NFL, and it would surprise me very much if he weren't successful whenever the opportunity comes," Lewis said. "But right now he's a great asset for us, because if something happens to Andy Dalton, we have to be backed up.

"It would be unfair to the organization, it would be unfair to the city of Cincinnati and the club and the rest of the team if we weren't backed-up with a competent backup quarterback."

Thriving in Cincinnati

Having coached in the AFC North for 10 years before taking the Bengals job, Lewis had been to Cincinnati 10 times.

"We'd always enjoyed coming to this city," he said.

Knowing that many former Bengals stayed here after leaving the team was "an indication it's a really good place to live and raise a family," Lewis added.

So he knew it was a place he'd like to work.

"When you're looking to become a head coach, you want to go someplace where your assistants can thrive; their families, their children," Lewis said. "And we've been fortunate to come to Cincinnati and be able to do that."


While Lewis' contract is up after next season, it's a situation he has found himself in before. After the 4-12 2010 season, he came to an extension agreement with Bengals owner Mike Brown and led the team to five straight playoff appearances, so it's not something he worries about.

"Contrary to other people, every time we go out, it's a playoff game for me," Lewis said.

Lewis has been happy in Cincinnati, even working under an owner who, he joked, always has the most votes when it's time to make a decision, "no matter how many people are in the room."

He dismissed the idea floated by some fans that Brown has no interest in winning.

"It's the most important thing in (Brown's) life, daily: this football team and winning," Lewis said.

He added that the thing separating Brown from other team owners is his care for the players.

"He doesn't care if they play next week," Lewis said. "He wants them to be able to play next year."

Lewis said he hoped to extend his contract again.

"I'm not ready to walk off and go play golf full time," he said.