An Open Letter to Marvin Lewis

January 7, 2018

Marvin Lewis’ new contract was met with a lot of moans and groans from Bengals fans. Those doubts from the fan base are reasonable, but they won’t change the reality. Lewis is the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. He will be for the next two seasons.

I decided to write Coach Lewis this open letter, since he is here to stay:

Dear Marvin,

Congratulations on the new contract. Your two-year deal was deserved. I expected you to be an NFL head coach in 2018, but I didn’t think it would be in Cincinnati.

Fans and media tried to give you the proper send off. Heck, I discussed the good, bad and ugly of the Marvin Lewis era multiple times on the Locked on Bengals podcast.

It was time for both sides to part ways. You were going to land another gig elsewhere and Mike Brown was going to search for a new head coach for the first time since 2003.

A lot has changed since you were hired by the Bengals 15 years ago. You helped raise fans expectations in Cincinnati, improved the perception of the team and you helped make Bengals football fun again.

But it hasn’t been fun in recent years. In fact, it feels stale. Since you started coaching the Bengals a lot of things have changed.

Carson Palmer was drafted, played for 15 seasons and retired. We witnessed the rise and fall of Chad Johnson. Heck, Mo Egger was still a radio producer when you were hired. What about me? Well, since you were hired in 2003, I’ve grown a lot. I graduated from high school, received two degrees from the University of Cincinnati, bought three cars and I have a mortgage. Every single person reading this has changed dramatically over the past 15 years. Donald Trump went from reality television star to President of the United States.

However, some things haven’t changed. You’re still looking for that first playoff win. You’re still working towards most of the goals you set out to accomplish in 2003. You’ve won the AFC North four times in 15 years. Outside of that, what goals have you accomplished?

Yes, you’ve went to the playoffs seven times. I know you’ve done a lot of work in the community and are trying your best to win. With that said, why should anyone buy into what you said yesterday?

Here’s one quote that stands out to me from your press conference yesterday:

“A lot of people depend on me, and I appreciate that. I am not going to just leave them hanging. I’m going to work my tail off for them. I’m going to work my tail off for the City of Cincinnati to win a championship. I think that’s important. The fans deserve that.”

That sounds great. Why should anyone believe you? Why should anyone think that year 16 (or 17) will be any different than the past 15 seasons?

No one will buy into the Lewis-led Bengals unless you give them a reason to. Marvin, you can talk about winning championships, but what’re you going to change?

I asked you that yesterday in your press conference and here’s what you said:

“We have to change. I’ve gone through it — we need to be better at what we do. We’re going to have changes on our staff. We’re going to have to gain some better players. We’re going to have to look to augment what we do with what we have right now on the football team, and we’re going to have to do a little better and do a better job of maybe adding some guys from other clubs. And then, we have to look at that as we go into the draft and make sure that, if this draft isn’t strong in this area, then we have to take care of it prior to the draft. That’s important as well. Again, at the end of the day, it comes down to us coaching better and our players going out and playing better.”

Maybe you’ll push for more quality free agents. Is that enough to get this team to a championship? Marvin, if you want to reach your goal, you’re going to have to change a lot more than just the approach in free agency.

Let’s start with the quarterback. I don’t think you’ve entertained the idea of draft a quarterback early in the draft since 2011. That needs to change this offseason.

You recently called Andy Dalton “outstanding.” He’s a good player, but he’s not good enough to keep you from looking at quarterbacks in the draft. The Patriots had the best quarterback on the planet when they picked Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round. No, I don’t want you to pick a quarterback for the sake of picking one, but there will be signal-callers in the 2018 NFL Draft that have the potential to be better than Dalton. Don’t ignore that potential.

Start trusting your young players to make plays for you. I watched Alex Redmond and Christian Westerman rot on the bench all season. Meanwhile, your offense couldn’t run the ball and your quarterback got hit entirely too much. There’s a reason former offensive line coach Paul Alexander isn’t coming back. His handling of the young offensive lineman played a role in that, but you had a hand in it too.

Admit that playing the Pittsburgh Steelers is different than other games. It isn’t like playing the Titans, Colts or Browns. It means much more because they’ve dominated your team over the last 15 seasons.

These are just a few, of the many things that need to change. I know it hasn’t been all bad. In fact, you’ve led the Bengals to the sixth best record in the NFL since 2011.


Marvin, people aren’t upset because they think you’re a bad guy. I happen to think you’re a good coach. People are angry because they think it’s going to be the same product they’ve seen over the past 15 years. Only YOU can change that. Only YOU can get through to Mike Brown. Only YOU can look in the mirror and make the necessary adjustments to bring a Super Bowl to Cincinnati. Otherwise, Bengals football will be a lot like watching reruns of Seinfeld, only a lot less entertaining.

Mike was scared to change and that’s why you’re still here. Please, don’t be afraid to look in the mirror and make necessary changes. If YOU do, then maybe you’ll get the results you’re looking for.

Thank you for your time,

James Rapien

P.S. We see better than we hear

*This article was originally posted on my blog at ESPN1530.com.

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