2010 was a year of promise for the Cincinnati Bengals. Unfortunately for all of Marvin Lewis' hopes and dreams however, this season has turned out to be one very long game of stuck in the mud.
Declining to extend his coaching contract late last season, Lewis felt content with his position in Cincinnati, and instead chose to throw owner Mike Brown an opportunity to revamp the Bengals franchise by ultimately implementing some change throughout the system.
Once Terrell Owens placed his John Hancock on the dotted line, Lewis got his wish.
Perhaps what head coach Lewis wasn't wishing for though, was a 4-11 record in 2010. With one week remaining the Bengals have experienced one of the most tumultuous seasons in their 42-year history, and although some talent still sits on the starting roster, this has been a year to forget as a whole.
Mind you, Lewis isn't worrying about what may lay ahead in the next seven days. To most people seeing your eight-year career possibly vanquish in the blink of an eye would be quite a threatening consequence, yet the Bengals' main man still seems focused on this weekend's trip to M&T Bank Stadium.
"My focus is really the Baltimore Ravens, and we'll cross that bridge when it comes to that time," Lewis answered on Wednesday. "I don't think much about it."
But as neat and tidy as Lewis' approach truly is, sooner or later the entire Bengals coaching staff will have to wake up and smell the roses.
And that day will be straight after the Bengals' visit to Baltimore.
For you see, the simple fact remains the same week in and week out—the Bengals have failed in their ultimate goal this season. Following on from 2009, Cincinnati was displaced following a Wild Card loss to the New York Jets, but somehow seemed to bounce back with a highly successful draft campaign in April.
So what answer does this leave us heading into Sunday?
Although the situation appears to be as plain as day, Cincinnati fans have become accustomed to frustration as far as owner Mike Brown is concerned. For years Brown's fickle nature has become a trait of Cincinnati football, making this decision all that more questionable in the days leading up to Week 17.
If Brown should choose to end ties with Lewis sometime after Sunday's game though, the Bengals will see their eight-year head-coaching veteran walk away with his tail between his legs, after turning this franchise around in stylish fashion.
When Lewis first stepped foot in Paul Brown Stadium, attendance was at a record low. Although the scenario is much the same in 2010, one can't forget that Lewis gave birth to the "winning gene" once again in Cincinnati, seeing fans flock to watch their team win.
Better than filling all 65,790 seats however is the fact that Marvin Lewis led the Bengals to the AFC North Division crown in both 2005 and 2009. Yet as great as this statistic seems, it is now forgotten in the grand scheme of things.
Speaking of the grand scheme of things, there is of course the lows of Lewis' career in Cincinnati that need to be discussed.
Not only has Cincinnati failed in their 2010 goal, they have also tied the team losing record for most consecutive games without a victory. From Week 4 to Week 14, the Bengals lost 10 straight games this year, one of the main reasons Lewis is reaching the end of the rope as the season winds down.
Next, there are also the many other self-inflicted wounds that have occurred within the organization. Wide receiver Terrell Owens more or less blamed the coaching staff for the team's poor offensive performance during midseason, reflective of Cincinnati's 22nd-ranked point-scoring machine.
Other than Owens, quarterback Carson Palmer has also endured a season to forget. Although Cincinnati sees their quarterback playing reasonably well at the present time, two months ago the Bengals were taking a serious look at backup replacement Jordan Palmer to step in under center.
Finally, there is the disheartening fact that the term "Bungles" is beginning to sneak back out of the woodwork of this team. Paul Brown Stadium hasn't seen a sell-out in the past month, and it is no wonder, considering this is the same Bengals team that let a big-time lead slip against the Buffalo Bills in Week 11.
As far as coaching options go for Brown though, the pickings are quite large.
With names like Jon Gruden, Jim Harbaugh and Jeff Fisher floating around, the Bengals won't be short of opportunities if the coaching spot should remain vacant indefinitely heading into the offseason.
Yet, keeping that same thought in mind, teams such as Minnesota, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, New York (Giants), Tennessee, Miami, Cleveland, Denver and Carolina are looking likely to enter the hunt sometime in the next few months. Therefore, the Bengals need to keep their wits about them.
In all reality Cincinnati has felt this coaching controversy coming a mile away. From the opening moments of the 2009 offseason, fans began to question Lewis' intent as the head coach, after the Bengals were beaten by the Jets last January.
I guess a Terrell Owens signing and a few classy draft picks alleviated the pressure momentarily though.
When asked this time last year on his head-coaching role in Cincinnati, Lewis stated:
"I'm talking about structure, decisions and how we do things and how I have the ability to do things that give us an opportunity to win football games."
Realistically, the opportunity that Lewis is talking about has flown out the window after a 4-11 season and a barrage of dilemmas, poor games, ugly statistics and missed opportunities to place wins on the board.
Right now the players in Cincinnati are unaware of the current situation, and it appears they won't have to wait long for a verdict after Sunday's game against the Ravens.
In or out, Lewis will be remembered for the highs and lows of his career in a Bengals polo shirt, but 2010 is a memory to forget if you are a Bengals supporter. The coaching options are present in the league, so this Sunday is do or die time for one of the NFL's most criticized coaches.
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