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Lewis Gets Analytical

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, left, directs his players alongside running back Joe Mixon, right, during NFL football practice, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Marvin Lewis with his leading rusher, Joe Mixon.

So what else is new?

As the Bengals put their final three players on injured reserve to punctuate the hail of hurt that has blanketed this season (make it 18 on IR), head coach Marvin Lewis gave no clue Friday to his future on the doorstep of Sunday's finale (4:25 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in Pittsburgh.

The usual speculation has followed Lewis to the end of another season with a raft of tweets from NFL insiders. If his 256th regular-season game as Bengals head coach is his last, it also puts him one game ahead of John Fox with the most games coached by a head man that began his career in the 21st century. If not, he's getting a head start on his 17th season by giving a bow to analytics.

"I keep telling you, guys, don't worry about coaches and their future. Coaches don't worry about their futures," said Lewis during his weekly quick hit after Friday's walk-through, just as coy as if he were blowing off questions about the injury status of any of his starters. "They got into coaching and their future is just day-to-day-to-day. That's all it is. So. You know? It's not a worry or concern of mine."

But analytics are. After the worst defensive season in team history followed one of the worst offensive seasons, Lewis was asked where the club stood with the rise of analytics and he thinks the coaching data needs to match the player data.

"We are just on the ground floor I really think," Lewis said. "As far as player technology I think we are very good. I think we are ahead of the curve. But as far as other data and the use of it, I'm not sure. But in my mind we are probably not where it needs to be – where it's going to be -- right now. As you listen to the outreach of other groups and companies and so forth because everybody says we can do this for you, we can do that for you and then settling in with what you want to do in house and what you want to farm out outside of the building.

"What's beneficial? That's the thing I don't know. That's the thing I say all the time, I don't know, coaches are used to doing things one way. Give me the information in a different way and let me see how valuable it is," Lewis said. "That's what I would say. Whether it's our planning or how we help the players and receive the information, I think it can continue to grow."

Before this season the Bengals beefed up their I.T. department and he thinks it's going to play a major role for coaches. Hue Jackson, his special assistant who was the head coach in an analytically driven organization in Cleveland, has been a clearinghouse since he arrived last month.

"There were people put in place here a year ago in order to help receive this data and sort through it and see what we could use," Lewis said. "Hue's been helpful in trying to direct them in the right direction … It's important if someone is gaining something you could gain. The information is there yet you are not able to utilize it."

You would think Lewis, 60, would have been through his most trying year. In a third straight losing season he not only fired a coordinator in mid-run for the second year in a row, he called defenses for the first time since the W presidency after he fired Teryl Austin on Nov. 12.

But he seemed to enjoy the double role and it appeared to refresh him.

"It's been tough, but also it's been fun to go back and to really coach. Because, before, it's been a few years," Lewis said. "My voice sometimes carries too much weight and you're taking away from who, I mean I've always been coaching, but yet, when I would say something, I had to make sure I said it exactly the way they were saying it. Whether it be Paul (Guenther) or Teryl or Mike (Zimmer), or whoever has been the coordinator. And now, I can say it the way I want to say it, and we went back and revised things to the way I say it. Things that I could relate to them, I related to them, but we had to make some changes and the players have done a nice job adjusting to those changes to make things to where I could understand it and I think I could help them understand it quicker and better. And it's hard to do midstream like we did."

Lewis says he zeroed in on the secondary, where he says there wasn't enough black and white, and he feels that progress has been made with the help of cornerbacks coach Daronte Jones, safeties coach Robert Livingston and the starting safeties, veteran Shawn Williams and rookie Jessie Bates.

"For a guy like Shawn Williams, who has been trained a certain way, for me to go in and say," Lewis said, '"Now Shawn, we're going to change it to this way now, because for me, this fits better. I see the origin of this, and this is why.' To begin to train Jessie differently. Particularly with the back end guys, because that's where I saw some things that I felt like we needed to simply and not create so much gray, and make it easier for them to understand and play fast.

"That's been the hardest part and I think they've done a good job, in Robert and Daronte, of making sure that as we go through the opponent tape week in and week out and the planning and so forth, that it's unfolding the way I want to see it and yet we're not crossing wires. We were getting wires crossed before so we're trying to uncross wires."

Even though the last 46 days have been jammed packed with meetings and practices in a schedule that would test the youngest of men, Lewis seems to have held up well with help from the other coordinators, Bill Lazor on offense and Darrin Simmons on special teams.

"Every time I'm here, somebody's waiting on me somewhere else. And that's the thing, you know, because Bill or Darrin, for me to get with the offensive staff to watch tape with them after practice, things like that, I just, it's elongated people's days," Lewis said. "Where everybody's had to adjust in order for me to get my questions answered about this guy or that guy … I talk with Bill but I'm not sitting in there as much when they're putting the plan together because I'm obviously spending full time with us putting the defensive plan together. So those guys have had to adjust."

Lewis has indicated he won't call the defense next season. But he wasn't dropping any hints on who will. Or if he'll hire the guy.

"Things happen around the league, and believe me, if the other coaches don't tell me, I don't know. And that's the shame of it I guess," Lewis said. "There's just too much going on in my day for me to worry about things outside of this building, that don't pertain to these 60 something guys I've got here. And that's the thing. It's been that way and I don't know that I'll ever change."

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