Former Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is well-positioned to have numerous opportunities to continue his head coaching career in January, according to league sources, with several front offices viewing him as a top candidate in what could be a 2020 hiring cycle that prizes experience.
Lewis, who became one of the NFL's longest tenured coaches with the Bengals prior to his departure in January, was ready to take a step back from coaching for a while at the end of last season. He did not actively pursue jobs, although a few did have some appeal to him, and was comfortable taking some time away from that particular grind. He joined his friends Ray Anderson and Herm Edwards at Arizona State University as a special advisor, with that program having a successful season. Should the right opportunities arise, some close to him believe he would return to the NFL in 2020.
Lewis' work with the Bengals, a traditionally struggling franchise, resonates strongly now with that franchise sputtering with an 0-9 record and questions being asked of ownership about the roster and direction of the team. Lewis lasted from 2003-18 with the Bengals – an eternity in NFL years and especially with that franchise – and posted a 131-122-3 record with seven playoff seasons, including five straight from 2011-15. He failed to win a playoff game, but took the Bengals to new heights of consistency and contention that appears even more improbable when viewed through the current lens.
Lewis, 61, is seen as one of the most accomplished options available, according to several executives and agents I have reached out to, and has strong support from within the league office as well, sources said. The NFL in recent years has swung to hiring, increasingly, very young, white, offensive-minded coaches, a trend that may be changing with much of the 2019 coaching class struggling and the NFL urging teams to be more thorough and diverse in their head coaching hiring processes.
Lewis was a highly-successful defensive coordinator prior to becoming Bengals coach, and his staffs produced several head coaches elsewhere. He has a commanding presence and deep experience putting together an organization and thrived in Cincinnati despite generally having less infrastructure in scouting and football operations than his opponents. Lewis' long-time quarterback, Andy Dalton, is virtually certain to be dealt in 2020, which could raise the possibility of a reunion should Lewis land with a team in need of a veteran passer.