Andre Smith and Marvin Lewis: Linked Together As One

Dean EversoleContributor IJune 23, 2009

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 1:  First round draft pick Andre Smith #71 of the Cincinnati Bengals waits his turn for a drill during rookie minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium on May 1, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Mark Lyons/Getty Images)

One player hold’s in his hands the fate of a coaching staff and an organization for the next 10 years. The previous sentence may be dripping with melodrama, but the fact is offensive tackle Andre Smith now holds the future of Marvin Lewis in his gigantic hands.

Smith was the sixth overall pick this past April by the Bengals. Despite an unexplainable turn of events leading up to the draft, Cincinnati called Smith’s name on draft day. Desperate to rebuild a line that allowed 51 sacks, the Bengals put aside the character issues swirling around Smith, choosing his potential instead.

Nobody disagreed that Smith was the most talented offensive lineman in the draft, but after going MIA at the NFL combine and embarrassing himself at a personal workout, his stock dropped.

That apparently did not phase Marvin Lewis, who jumped at taking Smith. Now Lewis’ future as the Bengals coach rests squarely with Smith.

Which Smith walks into the Cincinnati training camp is the big question. If it is the one that dominated college football, while playing for Nick Saban, then the Bengals will have an All-Pro right tackle. However, if this version of Smith quickly fades or never arrives, Lewis’ coaching career at Cincinnati will be over.

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All the changes and tweaks on the line, including the release of Levi Jones, will mean little if Smith crumples in the hot NFL spotlight. Quarterback Carson Palmer will again be running for his life, leaving the offense toothless.

Another season of 4-to-6 wins will bring the Lewis era to a close. Despite enjoying some early success the pressure is building and owner Mike Brown is feeling where it hurts most; the pocket book. For the first time in the history of Paul Brown Stadium, season tickets are open to the public.

Certainly the economy caused some of this grief, but never underestimate the destitute of fans chronic losing causes. Lewis’ honeymoon is now over and when the dollar talks, Mike Brown listens.