The Bengals (6-9) won their final game of the season at Paul Brown Stadium. Lewis and his team have one more left Sunday at Baltimore. Then Lewis’ fate will be decided after 15 seasons in Cincinnati that included some of the franchise’s best regular-season performances but no playoff win.
Lewis is 0-7 in the postseason, the worst mark in NFL coaching history. After a six-win season last year, he and owner Mike Brown weren’t able to agree on a contract extension beyond 2017. Brown said he’d wait to see how the season turned out.
It’s been even worse than last year in many respects. Attendance is way down — Paul Brown Stadium was half-empty Sunday — and the Bengals got blown out in back-to-back games before rallying against the self-destructing Lions (8-7) .
“This season was not the season we expected,” Lewis said. “We do this to be world champions — to have an opportunity to be world champions. Anything short of that is a failure, and this year we failed to get there.”
His players know all about Lewis’ tenuous position. Lewis has denied reports that he doesn’t want to return, but has been otherwise cryptic, saying it’s not appropriate to discuss his job until the season ends.
“We can’t control what’s going to happen,” receiver A.J. Green said. “Coach Lewis has been here for a long time, and he’s always handled it the right way.”
There wasn’t much reaction from the small crowd when Lewis’ name was announced as part of the pregame team introductions. He didn’t show any extra emotion about the game.
“Emotional?” Lewis said, laughing. “Why? Do you know something I don’t know?”
The win ended Cincinnati’s streak of three straight dismal losses, momentarily salving the sting of the Bengals’ second straight losing season.
“We have a lot to play for, too — the logo on our jersey and name on our backs,” said Giovani Bernard, who ran for 116 yards and the clinching touchdown in the closing minutes. “That was Marvin’s message to us every day.”