CINCINNATI — Coach Marvin Lewis got a two-year contract extension Tuesday, providing more chances to try to get the Cincinnati Bengals that playoff victory that has eluded him for 15 seasons.
The agreement came after a second straight losing season and two days of discussions with owner Mike Brown. Lewis has the second-longest active coaching tenure in the NFL, behind Bill Belichick’s 18 seasons with New England.
Unlike Belichick, who has won five Super Bowls and made two other appearances in the title game, Lewis is 0-7 in the playoffs, the worst coaching record in NFL history. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, the sixth-longest streak of futility in league history.
Paul Brown Stadium was half-empty for the final home game, an indication fans had given up on the team and were hoping for change.
Instead, Brown decided to stay the course and keep Lewis, who wanted more say over the coaching staff and the roster if he stayed.
Brown’s aversion to change won out.
“Marvin has made significant contributions during his time here,” Brown said in a statement.
Lewis planned to meet the media on Wednesday. He said in a statement that he was committed “to making the necessary improvements to put this team in the best position to win.”
Lewis has acknowledged that he would have been fired in any other NFL city. Instead, he’s gotten second and third chances — and now a 16th chance — to lead the Bengals to a postseason win. Brown, an owner who values loyalty, has decided to keep Lewis around.
It marks a stay-the-course coaching offseason for both of Ohio’s teams. The Browns are keeping coach Hue Jackson after they became only the second team in NFL history to go 0-16.
On Monday, Lewis said he was interested in staying only if he and ownership had a common vision for changes that needed to happen. He said the organization needs to do a better job building a roster that can contend for an AFC North title.
Lewis has by far the longest coaching tenure in team history — founder Paul Brown and Sam Wyche are tied for second at eight years — and a 125-119-3 record, including that 0-7 playoff mark.
Under Lewis, the Bengals have had some of their best regular seasons and some of the worst playoff moments.
The mastermind of Baltimore’s Super Bowl championship defense in 2000, Lewis came to Cincinnati before the 2003 season — a rare outside hire by the Brown family. Lewis turned the Bengals into a competitive team and then a playoff team after years of languishing as a laughingstock.
He hasn’t been able to win a playoff game, though. His best chance came in 2015, when the Bengals matched the franchise record with 12 wins and were in control in the final minutes of a playoff game against rival Pittsburgh at Paul Brown Stadium.
Lewis’ team unraveled, fumbling to give Pittsburgh a final chance and then committing two unthinkable penalties — Vontaze Burfict and Adam “Pacman” Jones got 15-yard fouls — that set up the Steelers’ field goal for an 18-16 win. It was one of the worst meltdowns in NFL playoff history.
At yet, Lewis survived it. His team never recovered. The Bengals won only six games last season. When Lewis and Brown met afterward, they couldn’t agree on terms of an extension of his deal that ended after the 2017 season.
A 23-20 Monday night loss to Pittsburgh on Dec. 4 essentially ended the Bengals’ chances. Paul Brown Stadium was less than half-full for the final home game, a 26-17 victory over the Lions on Dec. 24. In the final game at Baltimore, the Bengals rallied for a 31-27 win that eliminated the Ravens.
The Bengals now have to sell tickets by convincing fans that things are changing, even if the head coach is the same.