So now, we wait.
Because there was clearly no time to make up their minds, Marvin Lewis and the Bengals are going to take some time to decide on Lewis' future. Maybe a decision has been made and they don't want to make it public until, I don't know, tomorrow?
Maybe no decision has been made, even if that seems hard to believe.
Maybe everyone with the Bengals is regrouping since Hue Jackson still has a job for some reason, and Marvin and Mike no longer need to provide their former assistant with a landing place.
I don't know. I do know that I'm very much ready to move on from Marvin Lewis, not unappreciative at all for what he's done, but very ready for someone different to see if they can do better.
I'm also ready to move on from what's still likely to be Marvin's last Bengals team.
The final two endearing performances, and yesterday's thrilling victory aside, I didn't enjoy this team or this season one bit. They were stale. They were boring. They were often non-competitive. They essentially stopped playing meaningful football well before Thanksgiving, with the speculation about Marvin's future and who might be next being far more interesting than any on-field development.
The losing was miserable, of course, but it was the way the Bengals went about it, wasting a year of its core's prime while revealing weaknesses that must be addressed regardless of who's in charge in 2018. Bengals games were difficult to watch in 2017, perhaps more so than at any point in the Marvin era, playing a brand of ball that was far more reminiscent of what life as a Bengals fan was like before Marvin Lewis got here than anything resembling his better Cincinnati teams.
It was maddening to see the offensive line play so poorly, knowing that their struggles could've been forecasted months before the season began. It was sobering to watch another season pass by with so little production from important cogs like Tyler Eifert, who's future as a Bengal very much hangs in the balance. It was frustrating watching the Bengals fail to forge any kind of offensive identity while often being so easy for other teams to defend. It was painful to see them fail to answer questions about the skill position that will linger into their third consecutive offseason.
It sucked to start dreading Sundays.
We are going to make a big deal about a new head coach, if indeed the Bengals will be hiring one, and justifiably so. It's been forever since Mike Brown led a coaching search, which makes the situation here more intriguing than most, and the new guy is probably going to occupy the head coach's office at Paul Brown Stadium for a very long time. It was hard enough to watch the Bengals this season without imagining what it will be like if the same team is led by the same coach. Change is most definitely needed.
But this team faces questions beyond the identity and background of Marvin's potential replacement, even if the answers do mostly go hand-in-hand with whom they hire.
The Bengals need more from Andy Dalton, either because the new head coach and his staff are able to squeeze more out of him or because the team built around Andy brings out his best. They need drastic upgrades on the offensive line, which won't just come from guys who played at the end of the season being thrown into bigger roles next year. They need John Ross healthy and on the field after a rookie season that was wasted, and they need him to solve issues at the skill spots that now linger into a third straight offseason.
They need a playcaller that can figure out how to most effectively use Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard at the same time, a concept that seemed foreign to both Ken Zampese and Bill Lazor.
They need to figure out whether Tyler Eifert is worth bringing back, and at what cost. They need to not count on him to be what he was in 2015 if they do.
They need a major leap forward from young defensive players like Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis, who showed flashes amid the misery. They need to find more guys like them.
They need to invest in linebackers that can actually play.
They need more, maybe at a new position, from the overpaid Dre Kirkpatrick.
They need to be open to drafting a quarterback to do more than just hold a clipboard. Andy Dalton will be the starter in 2018, and that's fine. His presence is one of the reasons why the head coaching job here is attractive to begin with. But they need to be open to finding someone who they'd be willing (unlike Marvin) to put in the game when Andy doesn't have it, or someone that might actually replace Dalton when his deal is done. They need to value depth at the sport's most important position, and they need a coach who handles quarterbacks differently than the way Marvin did.
The Bengals need the freshness and energy a new coach can bring, and they really need someone that will shake the team out of its comfort zone and goad the franchise into new ideas and ways of doing things differently (I have a suggestion), but equally as important, the Bengals need to figure out how to re-open their window without doing a total rebuild. They need massive, instant upgrades to a flawed roster that lacks talent in some areas and depth throughout, and they need a coaching staff more willing and able to get more in the short-term from its younger players.
They need a lot.
If they get what they need, I might actually look forward to Sundays again.