As a Bengals fan, I've become used to feeling certain things. Heartbreak. Disappointment. Anger. Resignation. Even a little sheepishness. To root for this team isn't just to expect the worst, but to anticipate being letdown by them, either with their play on the field or the decisions their front office makes off of it. If there's one almost undeniable, unalienable truth when it comes to rooting for the Cincinnati Bengals, it's that they will never fail to dumbfound, disaffect, and dissatisfy.
And yet, still.
Marvin Lewis is coming back to coach the Bengals in 2018, and then again in 2019. He'll probably be the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals for as long as Mike Brown possesses all of his mental faculties because Mike Brown is afraid of anything that disrupts his coveted comfort and continuity, even if it means that his team will continue to be comfortable with continual losing.
This feels....I'm not even sure what the word is to describe what this feels like. Let's go with letdown. At least using that word on this forum won't get me fired.
I have no personal animus toward Marvin Lewis. My interactions with him have been admittedly more limited than they should be, but they've been pleasant. He's a good man who's done some important things in our town, and I've gone out of my way, as his legacy has been talked about in recent weeks, to point out how he used to make us feel about rooting for his football team.
I didn't feel very good about rooting for his football team this season.
Not that what happened with the Bengals this season was completely Marvin's fault - many have been complicit in this franchise's demise since the relative highs of 2011 through 2015 - but the only thing that kept my interest during a miserable season played out by a boring, dull team was the hope that someone else would be leading them next year.
Someone who could breathe life into a stale franchise still reeling from postseason failures of the past. Someone who could instill some discipline into a team that didn't have it. Someone who embraced letting younger players play. Someone who actually seemed to be enjoying his job.
Someone who could actually win something meaningful.
However you feel about Marvin Lewis and Mike Brown independent of one another, there's no questioning their lack of big-picture, large-scale success. I don't need to recite their record together because it's burned into our memories. The highs of the Marvin/Mike marriage aren't that high, and the lows have not only been painful to endure, but they've often made the Bengals into a punchline that's ceased being funny.
This franchise's rigidness and lack of forward thinking has become as much of a hallmark as Marvin's constant sourpuss expression he wears during his press conferences. Their unwillingness to veer from their lane of comfort and try different strategies has become as much a trademark of the franchise as lack of discipline has become one of the team itself. Their inability to win one stupid playoff game in more than a quarter of a century is as much a part of the Bengals brand as the fan disenchantment that accompanies every failure, every misstep, and every loss.
And there I was, still...
Against any track record of evidence to the contrary...
Thinking the Bengals would do the right thing.
When will I learn?
There will be talk this week about why things are going to be different, why a owner/coach partnership that's accomplished very little will do better, and how changes to their working dynamic will ultimately yield better results than the 0-fer that's been the their first 15 years.
Marvin and the Bengals might ultimately prove me, and a whole lot of other Bengals fans wrong, and I'll be happy to write and say as much if he does. But for now, the Bengals have chosen to bring back a coach who's won nothing.
Who can't beat his team's arch-rival.
Whose teams lack urgency, show little discipline, and have players that continually take advantage of his willingness to let them walk all over him.
Who seemingly hates playing rookies in a league driven by young players.
Whose team quit on him at times this season.
Yet that's not the problem, not for me, at least. The problem is that I actually expected the Bengals move on from Marvin Lewis, to embrace change and maybe even the fear of the unknown. I actually believed that Mike Brown would step out of his comfort zone and freshen the team and the vibe around it with someone who might be more capable of doing the things Marvin can't, hasn't, or won't.
I actually thought the Bengals would move on from Marvin Lewis this time.
I actually thought the Cincinnati Bengals would do something that didn't leave me feeling so let down.
Maybe that's my fault. Not theirs.
The Bengals do what the Bengals do.
One day, I'll learn.