Will 2012 Be Marvin Lewis' Last as Cincinnati Bengals Head Coach?

Matt GrayContributor IJune 15, 2012

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 11: Head coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals talks to players during a rookie minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium on May 11, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

"Not in a while."

That was all Marvin Lewis had to offer on Thursday when questioned about whether he and Mike Brown had discussed a contract extension.

With ten years under his belt, Marvin Lewis has survived through a multitude of highs and lows in the Queen City. When 2010 brought about his lowest point, it came largely as a surprise to see him retain his position.

However, one year later Lewis finds himself at the beginning of what seems to be a new era in Bengaldom. With an unexpected playoff berth in 2011 and a stripped bare and retooled roster, lead by Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, this seems less a new chapter for Lewis, and more a whole new book.

Expectations are understandably higher in Cincinnati as we approach the 2012 season, and while history suggests that disappointment awaits, there is justifiable belief that this team can change the record.

Whatever the outcome this year, the Bengals are likely to face significant changes when the season ends. Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer have been touted as solid head coaching prospects and a strong year could see one or both receive better opportunities.

On the other side of the coin, a disappointing year could see either Zimmer or Gruden offered Lewis' job, with the runner-up likely to go elsewhere.

This begs the question as to whether the Bengals are officially in win-now mode, and if so, what can be deemed a success when all is said and done?

To really make good on his promise of fulfilling unfinished business in Cincinnati, Lewis will need to lead these Bengals past the wild card round for the first time in his career. If he can't take that step, it may be time to consider whether he has achieved all he can in Cincinnati.

Unfortunately, that decision will come at a time when Andy Dalton and the incumbent Bengals roster are still finding their feet. The reality is that if Mike Brown lets Marvin Lewis go while this young team is still developing, it could prove to be more detrimental to the team than if he had replaced him along with Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco.