Marvin Lewis on the sidelines last week against the Bears.
MINNEAPOLIS _ A bizarre situation around Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis got even more bizarre after Sunday's 34-7 dismissal by the Vikings. Lewis refuted an ESPN report earlier in the day that he's leaving the team after the season when he completes his 15th season.
"It's the same report you guys have been reporting on all season," Lewis said. There's nothing changed since August. It's speculation that people keep throwing out there. We're all wasting time talking about that.
"I have not made any decisions about anything as I've told you how many times?" Some of the players weren't even aware of the report, although Lewis said addressed it after the game but not before.
"What did it say?" asked right end Michael Johnson. "You know what they say. There's rumors and war and there's always rumor of war."
But a lot of players saw it and everyone but Pat Sims was also dealing with their worst back-to-back losses ever as a Bengal since the last two have been their worst since 2008. Quarterback Andy Dalton, pulled with ten minutes left after his worst consecutive outings, saw it before the game. His 27.3 passer rating was his worst ever on the road and his worst ever ever next to the infamous 2.0 in 2014. With the 28 in the opener, two of his worst three games have come this season.
"Hard to say," said Dalton, when asked if the report impacted the team. "We certainly didn't come to play."
He did say Lewis lightly addressed it in the post-game huddle with: "Keep playing. Regardless of what is said, what was put out there we just have to be able to finish the season the right way. "
Wide receiver A.J. Green, held to two catches for 30 yards, said he saw it on social media before the game.
"I don't think so," Green said of the impact. "I think we're professional enough where something like that isn't going to bother you."
Left end Carlos Dunlap offered, "I didn't think about it during the game," and back-up tackle Eric Winston said that''s the only way it
"I would hope so. I would hope it didn't affect guys," said Winston, who played most of the game at left tackle afterd Cedric Ogbuehi suffered a recurring shoulder injury. "Players can't let stuff llike that bother them."
Lewis is the only coach they've ever had. Left guard Clint Boling acknowledged that would be a big change because he's had such a massive impact on the franchise.
"I don't have anything to do with that," he said.
Before Sunday's game, Lewis shooed away a reporter asking about the report.
"It's nothing. Nothing to it," said Lewis as he sat with Boling and Winston on the Bengals bench in U.S. Bank Stadium.
Lewis jokingly grabbed a security guard and told him to deal with the reporter. It was all in fun but the Bengals now officially have a serious matter on their hands that had been an open secret for the last month. Topped off by the juicy tidbit that Lewis is upset with the contract situations of some of his coaches.
One thing was for sure. Lewis was right Friday when a reporter asked him directly about his future: "I'm not going to tell you."
Now the question is if the report is wrong or just premature. Lewis indicated he has not had a conversation with Bengals president Mike Brown, the man that hired him in 2003 to turn around the franchise. Both came through. Lewis took a team that had been to the postseason seven times in 35 years to seven play-off appearances and received a host of contract extensions from the loyal Brown.
On Friday, Lewis said he had yet to have a conversation with Brown about his future and when Brown and his family arrived at the stadium Sunday there was no indication there had been one. Brown had no comment and it appeared his players were unaware of the developments.
There is the sense that Lewis has been telling people close to him that he thinks his time with the Bengals is done, which is how secrets become open. But after the game he went as far to call the report "inaccurate," and said he's made no decision about 2018.
If anyone knows how to deal with a bizarre coaching change, it's Mike Brown. His father, Bengals founder Paul Brown, quietly stepped down as their first coach on New Year's Day, 1976, and still managed to shock the world. On Christmas Eve, 1983 Forest Gregg stunned Bengaldom when he left to coach the Packers. Eight years later Sam Wyche said he was fired but Brown said he resigned. Bruce Coslet resigned after a 2000 game Lewis' Ravens shut them out in Baltimore.
Brown, along with daughter Katie Blackburn and son-in-law Troy Blackburn, delivered a textbook coaching search and hire when they lured Lewis away from his post as Washington's defensive coordinator at the end of the 2002 season. Lewis, the first African-American head coach in club history, brought charisma, energy, and organization backed by 10 seasons as an assistant with AFC North rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
If this is it for Lewis, it's a full legacy. He not only turned around the franchise, he became its most successful annd longest-tenured coach, nearly doubling the eight seasons of Paul Brown and Wyche. He's also had to fight critiics. Sunday marked his 238th regular-season game, the most ever by a coach yet to win a post-season game.
_Old friend Terence Newman became the fourth cornerback of 39 years old to make an interception in an NFL game when he jumped a route to wide receiver Brandon LaFell early in the second half for his first pick of the year against a team for whom he played from 2012-2014. But LaFell said, ""I hung Andy out to dry."
_Despite the 5-9 record and Dalton's struggles, Lewis saidhe won't turn to Andy Dalton in the last two games. He was 3-for-6 for 19 yards in mopup Sunday.
_Green is really struggling, too. It was just the fourth time in the last four seasons he's been held to one or two catches when he's played a full game and the first time this year and the first time since the second game of last season.
_Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon killed he Bengals with 107 yards receiving when the same problems the young backers had last week against the Bears plauged them all day Sunday. They couldn't get near the back on pass.
"A lot of it is communication and passing it off to the right spot," said rookie middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson after his first NFL start.
_The Bengals have had two costly interceptions the past three weeks. On Sunday safety Shawn Williams set up the Bengals' only score with a rebound catch off Teddy Bridgewater's first pass in more than two years but appeared to aggravate his hamstring injury on the play. Three weeks ago against the Steelers cornerback Adam Jones suffered a season-ending groin on a pick.