It will be recalled that Leslie Frazier's parting with Marvin Lewis eight years ago wasn't exactly amicable and with Frazier's Vikings headed to Paul Brown Stadium this Sunday (1 p.m.), Lewis reiterated what he said when he fired his first Bengals defensive coordinator after two seasons.
And you have to admire Lewis for his honesty as he reflected on it all.
"A difficult thing transpired then, and probably more my fault than Leslie's. Actually it was all my fault more than Leslie's, but he's gone on to do great," Lewis said in his Tuesday news conference.
When Lewis was named Bengals head coach in 2003, he was coming off a wildly successful seven-year run as a defensive coordinator. He hired Frazier, the Eagles secondary coach, for the job in Cincinnati. He didn't elaborate but Lewis seemed to indicate Tuesday that he still had some coordinator in him.
"Me just not being supportive enough of him in the right ways. I'm a lot better now than I was then," Lewis said. "Just you have a lot to do (as a head coach)."
The Bengals were on pace to give up the third-most yards in franchise history and second-most rushing yards when Lewis took over some of the playcalling in the fifth game of the 2004 season, a 34-17 loss in Cleveland. The Bengals allowed 449 yards, 99 coming on Browns quarterback Jeff Garcia's 99-yard touchdown pass to Andre Davis.
"I took the question and doubt out of it for them yesterday," Lewis said the next day. "It's not the calls, it's not the paper. It's how you do it. I took the doubt out of everybody's mind. It's not what you call when. It's how you go about executing."
The Bengals went on to improve their defensive ranking from 28 in 2003 to 19 in '04 and Frazier expressed surprise when he wasn't asked back and replaced by Chuck Bresnahan. Sunday marks the first time a former Bengals coordinator comes back as a head coach to play his old team since Lindy Infante lost two games to the Bengals as the Colts head coach in 1996 and 1997.
Infante was the offensive coordinator for only the strike season of 1982. Bruce Coslet, was the offensive coordinator for four seasons before making his Jets head coaching debut at Riverfront Stadium in the 1990 opener, a 25-20 Cincinnati victory.
Frazier's club made the playoffs last season, but has fallen on hard times at 4-9-1 this season and he's rumored to be out at the end of the year. But his club has rallied to 2-2 under backup quarterback Matt Cassel and is coming off a 48-point explosion at home against the Eagles.
"I'm very happy for him," Lewis said. "I can't say enough about what he's done and the opportunity he's earned himself and he's done a great job of. It's unfortunate what happens in coaching."
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