Bengals' reason for keeping coach Marvin Lewis on board: Stability

CINCINNATI -- Dysfunction is common in today's NFL.

Just four hours up Interstate 71 from here, the Cleveland Browns have been giving a crash course in it since their return to the league in 1999.

What typically breeds that dysfunction? Constant quarterback searches, regular general manager changes, infighting within the front office and coaching ranks, quick-trigger firings, a series of poor draft classes and an unwillingness to adapt to an ever-evolving pro sports landscape are just a few of its defining characteristics.

You might find some of it in the Queen City, but not to the extreme. In this town the Cincinnati Bengals run a family operation that hinges upon two things: stability and loyalty.

That's why ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter's report that the Bengals had no plans of firing Lewis wasn't surprising.

Still, the biggest issue the organization has faced in its most recent history has been a knack for losing playoff games. And at 0-7 lifetime in the postseason, Lewis has been part of it all. Yes, it's a BIG issue that MUST get rectified if the Bengals are ever going to get back to the Super Bowl. An untimely fumble and a couple of poor decisions from two of the team's most recognizable stars in Saturday night's wild-card playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers contributed to another year in which the Bengals are answering questions about whether someday they'll get out of the first round.

The lacking-discipline aspect of Saturday's loss was most troubling, and it must be addressed post-haste.

Aside from that, though, how exactly do you go about rectifying the problem of consistently losing first-round playoff games? Fire your coach? Blow up the roster?

Maybe. A lot of teams do go that route.

But those teams aren't run by an old-school owner whose circle of trust only extends so wide and whose idea of success is steeped in establishing and maintaining continuity.

Agree with Mike Brown or not, but his is the philosophy that runs the organization. It's a belief system shared by others in the organization's power structure, too.

How do you think the Bengals of late became one of the league's most consistent playoff contenders? That didn't happen overnight. This is the product of relationships that have been carefully molded over time, and it's a matter of trust that has gradually been placed more heavily into Lewis' hands (which is why the added discipline must come from him). Since Brown gave Lewis more control after the abysmal 4-12 2010 season, the Bengals have been to the postseason five straight times, enjoying double-digit win totals in four of those years. They also have won a pair of AFC North championships in that span.

They've also drafted four classes that have become the backbone of the team. With so many players about to hit free agency, this offseason will test their personnel decision-making.

When it was reported last week that director of player personnel Duke Tobin was sticking around despite drawing interest from other places, the writing was on the wall. The Bengals like the partnership he's formed with Lewis. Unnecessarily breaking that up and running the risk of dysfunction after a 12-4 season didn't seem like a good idea.

Brown was quite displeased after last year's wild-card-round finish, so he had to have been beside himself Saturday. He'll pressure Lewis to tighten up his ship.

If Lewis was to send a strong message involving discipline off this latest playoff debacle, he would let Adam Jones walk in free agency. That'll be a tough decision, though, given the support Lewis has afforded the embattled corner over the years.