It seems the Marvin Lewis era will conclude with a whimper.
The Bengals reached a new low in franchise history on Sunday afternoon with an 34-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, just hours after ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke news that Lewis plans to leave at the conclusion of the season.
The Bengals (5-9) have lost three straight games and will have a second straight losing season.
The Bengals’ minds looked to be anywhere but U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, and it’s not surprising. At least one Bengals staff member was taken by surprise upon hearing the Lewis news on Sunday morning.
The news trickled down to players, or what was left of an injury-riddled squad that hasn’t looked the same since leading the Steelers 17-0 before the half just a few weeks ago. This team missed tackles, left receivers wide open, and couldn’t move the ball on offense more than a few feet at a time.
The play was so bad that the Vikings began taking their starters out with more than 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. They pulled starting quarterback Case Keenum for Teddy Bridgewater, who had not played since the 2015 season after a gruesome preseason injury last year.
The Bengals have been outscored 80-14 in the past nine quarters.
Where do they go from here? They need to start looking at the future immediately.
There’s no question that Lewis, the winningest coach in Bengals history, did what few others could by turning the organization around after it reached its low point in the 1990s. On Sunday, the team looked as if it had regressed back to that low point.
The organization needs to figure out how to reinvigorate the players, and they need to do it by looking outside the walls of their own facility. Hiring from within didn’t work with Dave Shula, Bruce Coslet or Dick LeBeau.
While the Bengals likely have some internal candidates in mind, the best thing for them to do now is immediately start a coaching search and find a home run hire.
Even if the team finds a way to win their last two games, there’s no salvaging this season.
Clearly, the time to look to the future is now in Cincinnati.