It's funny how quickly people come around, isn't it? Two years ago, Marvin Lewis was the overrated coach who couldn't win a playoff game and a year before that Jim Caldwell was the man holding the Lions back from taking the next step as a franchise. Now both are being viewed from the rosy prism only nostalgia can create.
Caldwell had his moment when the Lions fired Matt Patricia and fans longingly recalled better times under Caldwell's guidance. Now, today, out of the blue, Lewis is basking in the glory of hindsight with pundits touting his run with the Bengals as successful, if not outstanding.
It started when NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah tweeted the following:
Within a half-hour of this report being released, a deluge of supportive tweets flooded timelines from Cincinnati to New York to Houston to every other city where there is a coaching opening.
It's great to bring this context to the conversation, and it does highlight what Lewis built within a franchise that, outside of his tenure, has been consistently amongst the worst in the NFL over the last 30 years. My only question is: where was all of this when he was let go by the organization after the 2018 season?
In case people forgot, at the end of his tenure in Cincinnati, Lewis was basically run out of town because he failed to win a playoff game in seven tries. The Ringer said he was "mediocre." Stephen A. Smith crusaded for him to be fired. SB Nation celebrated when Lewis' tenure ended and they were hardly the only ones. Now, here we are, two seasons later and he's being lauded as a great coach.
It's totally justified, by the way. As Damien Woody points out, previous to Lewis being hired before the 2003 season, the Bengals hadn't made the playoffs since 1990 and had losing records in 11 of 12 seasons. He immediately turned them into a competitive team (8-8 his first two years), led them to four division titles, and the aforementioned seven playoff berths.
There his teams struggled, melting down in the final seconds of what should have been a win against the Steelers in 2016, suffering the heartbreak of Carson Palmer tearing his ACL in their first playoff game in 15 years in 2006, and losing in every way imaginable in between. The pitchforks and flaming sticks came out three years after their last playoff loss and Lewis has been out of the NFL since. It seems many expect that to change this offseason.
The Texans, Lions and Falcons have already fired their coaches this season and the Jets, Jaguars and Chargers are expected to follow suit after the season. The Bengals job might also open up as could the Bears, Eagles and Cowboys, who Lewis interviewed with this past offseason. That's 10 jobs that could become available and, as history has shown us, NFL teams love digging up former winners to lead their team on a comeback tour.
It's not for me to say whether Lewis deserves another chance. The facts say he had success in a place that's proven difficult to have success in, but couldn't win when it mattered most. The latter was all people could focus on two years ago, but the former is the sexy talking point today. History always has a way of repeating itself.