ORLANDO, Fla. - Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis would like quarterback Andy Dalton to get a deal now. "We are hopeful we can get a deal done that works and Andy can put it behind him. He can get back focusing on football," Lewis said at his Tuesday morning media availability at the NFL meetings.
"He doesn't have to go into the season and worry about this contract thing, every week someone is going to ask he a question and then it gets to there and then are you franchising — all those things that come into play later on. Let's get it behind us. Let's get something that works for everyone and enables us to keep tackles in front of you, receivers on the outside, and guys on the other side of the football so it works for everybody. "
Lewis' comments come on the heels of Bengals president Mike Brown talking about the club's effort to get Dalton locked up because of the high price and how it hinges on putting together the rest of the roster under the salary cap. Lewis said he thinks Dalton realizes how important the timing is and how critical it is to keep the team together.
"I think he gets it. But at some point you got to push everyone else to get it. Hey, this is what's best for me long term so I am not maimed," Lewis said. "If you can make this much money for this many years as opposed to this much for two years because you are maimed — and you see it. Look at the quarterbacks that keep changing teams and they are guys that got thrown in as young guys and weren't protected. There's one on the street right now. When you are not protected at that position as a young player you start seeing ghosts. We've been good to protect our young player at that spot time and time again so he can perform him job and prosper."
Like Brown before him, Lewis said the Bengals are embracing Dalton as the quarterback of the future despite three brutal post-season appearances. Those games are juxtaposed against a 30-18 regular-season record and a franchise best 33 touchdown passes this past season.
'Because he's done what most people haven't ever done," Lewis said. "He's taken a team to the playoffs three years in a row from a rookie on. He continues to ascend and get better."
On other topics, Lewis said he realizes with just a one-year extension, the heat may very well be on him to win his first playoff game to keep his job.
"I think that's important, yeah. Mike and I both understand that. You always have to win this year. Look around. It's the nature of the business," Lewis said.
Asked if this might be it if he doesn't win a post-season game, he offered, "Could be. Can't tell that."
Lewis also said he read the Ted Wells report that documented the Richie Icognito-Jonathan Martin mess in Miami and said he was "appalled." He believes he has enough leaders in Cincinnati that it wouldn't happen. Former Dolphins tackle Jake Long, he noted, had left the team by that time.
"The thing I thought was interesting in that was Jake Long was never mentioned. Who interviewed Jake Long? When he was a Miami Dolphin he was in charge. So that didn't really go on to that extent," Lewis said.
"I think you have to have leadership in place throughout your team that understands what our focus here is to win football games. Our focus is if that is our starting tackle to have him feel as good about himself as he can feel each and every day because that is a big, strong man that has to go and block big, strong men. So we certainly don't want to tear him down and expect him to go out and battle with us on Sunday. This doesn't work. You can't belittle him and expect him to do things he does."
But the story of Lewis' 66-minute sitdown with the national media was his take on Dalton. It didn't get contentious, but as one reporter told Lewis, he sounded defensive defending his embattled quarterback.
"I'm tired of answering questions about Andy that doesn't make any sense. Andy has done a fine job for us. We all want to be better. Once he does that all the rest will go away," Lewis said. " He's being compared with Drew Brees, he's being compared with (Aaron) Rodgers, guys that didn't get the chance to play until later on. They sat and watched.
"We had to throw Andy right in right away and I think he's done a really good job and will continue to get better. Until he proves he won't. He's done for the most part what we've asked the quarterback to do and that's take care of the offense. We put a lot on our quarterback and take care of the ball. We are only as good as our last time out when we lost that game so everybody feels that way right now, unfortunately."