<
>

Contract talks still quiet between Bengals, Marvin Lewis

CINCINNATI -- A year ago Saturday, the Cincinnati Bengals announced a one-year extension to head coach Marvin Lewis' contract.

They don't appear anywhere close to making a similar announcement this offseason.

That's because this week, a source close to the coach told ESPN.com the same thing Lewis told reporters assembled at the NFL combine last month: that still, there have been no talks between Lewis and the Bengals regarding another soon-to-expire contract.

Officially, Lewis' current deal ends 12 months from now at the conclusion of the 2015 league year. If for whatever reason he isn't signed to an extension, he'll be coaching this season without the security of knowing he could have at least one more year with the Bengals. It would be the equivalent of a lame-duck year.

The source did sound confident an extension eventually will come. The source cited conflicting schedules between Lewis and Bengals' ownership this offseason as a reason they haven't sat down just yet.

Regardless, that lack of conversation raises eyebrows.

When the Bengals kick off the season in September, Lewis will begin his 13th year in Cincinnati. Of active head coaches, only New England's Bill Belichick has been with the same team longer.

Many who follow the Bengals closely have legitimate questions about whether Lewis deserves another season in Cincinnati. Afterall, he's led the Bengals to six playoff appearances in 12 seasons but his teams haven't won a playoff game in any of them. The franchise itself hasn't won a playoff game since January 1991. It's that postseason ineptitude that has some fans frustrated, and itching for change.

What confounds the situation for the Bengals is that despite the lack of postseason success, Lewis has championed some of the best years in franchise history. His six playoff appearances are the most for any head coach in team history. The past four seasons, in particular, have included an unprecedented run of playoff berths. Not to mention, stability has finally arrived to the roster, the draft classes have been strong of late, and the days of the police-blotter Bengals have become a distant memory.

Lewis has been instrumental in getting the organization to heights that 13 years ago seemed far out of reach. Team president Mike Brown remembers those days well. Those memories make it hard for him to turn his back on the man who guided his organization out from such darkness.

One other theory about the lack of movement regarding a contract extension is that the Bengals could be setting up a head-coach succession plan. There are, after all, two candidates in Hue Jackson and Vance Joseph on the coaching staff. Jackson led the Raiders in 2011 and was close to being offered the Buffalo vacancy this offseason. Joseph interviewed with Denver for its head-coaching opening, but was declined permission by the Bengals to speak with the Broncos about their defensive coordinator position once Gary Kubiak was hired as the head man there.

Perhaps that controversial move was part of a grand plan to keep Joseph around so he could eventually take over for Lewis, whenever that day comes.

Lewis joked at the Super Bowl about possibly vacating his post for Joseph as early as next season. On ESPN’s "NFL Live," Lewis laughed as he brought up the possibility.

"My boss and owner sees him as a star," Lewis said, "and a guy that, as I told Vance, he could be sitting in my chair very quickly.

"It could be next year."