BALTIMORE — Marvin Lewis had just snagged a victory well worth celebrating, yet the focus of his postgame session had very little to do with X’s and O’s.
What everyone really wanted to know after Cincinnati’s 31-27 win over Baltimore on Sunday was: Would this be the last game for Lewis as coach of the Bengals?
“I don’t know that,” Lewis said. “We’ll see. There are decisions to be made. First, it would be ownership.”
Though it has been rumored that Lewis is ready to walk away from the job after 15 seasons and 125 wins, he insisted that’s not necessarily the case.
Lewis is scheduled to meet with owner Mike Brown, perhaps as soon as Monday, to discuss his future in Cincinnati.
“Yes, I want to coach this team,” Lewis said.
Asked if he would return if Brown asks him back, Lewis replied, “It’s more complicated than that.”
Though Sunday’s victory knocked the Ravens out of playoff contention, the Bengals (7-9) stumbled to their second straight losing season. And, while Lewis is the winningest coach in Bengals history (125-112-3), he is 0-7 in the postseason.
His players say they’d love to have Lewis back in 2018.
“I think he’s a heck of a coach,” said tight end Tyler Kroft, who scored two touchdowns Sunday. “I love playing for coach Lewis. But that (decision) is above my pay grade.”
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has gone through plenty of good times, and perhaps far more bad times, under Lewis. Sunday’s game, in which Dalton threw three touchdown passes, definitely belonged in the former category.
“I have no idea if he’s coming back or not,” Dalton said. “But if this is his final game, I couldn’t think of a better way to send him out — with a dramatic win like that.”
Lewis, not surprisingly, maintained a low-key stature in the locker room amid the celebration, even though he was defensive coordinator of the Ravens from 1996-2001.
“He wasn’t overly emotional after the game,” Dalton said.
The players sure were, though. Even though the Bengals realized weeks ago that this season wouldn’t end in a playoff run, they pulled together to beat Detroit last week before stunning the Ravens — and in the process, getting Buffalo into the postseason.
“The last weeks, we really came together as a team,” Dalton said. “We now believe we’re close to being a playoff team again. This was the perfect way to end the season.”
Whether it also ends Lewis’ run in Cincy remains to be seen.
“We’ll find out,” cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. “I can’t really speak on it. I can say that I love Coach Lewis. He’s definitely been a great inspiration in my life. I wish him the best.”