CINCINNATI Bengals hire Lewis to revive franchise
The longtime defensive coordinator is now the NFL's third black head coach.
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Marvin Lewis pulled out of consideration at Michigan State last month because he desperately wanted a head coaching job in the NFL. He's getting the one that breaks careers.
Lewis was hired as the Cincinnati Bengals' ninth head coach on Tuesday, ending two years of waiting for a top job. Now, the architect of one of the NFL's greatest defenses will try to revive its worst team.
Four coaches have failed to produce even one winning record during the Bengals' term as the league's most pitiful franchise, dating to 1991. Dick LeBeau was fired after a 2-14 season, the worst in team history.
"Before you win, you have to learn how to win," Lewis said Tuesday night. "Or more importantly, you have to learn not to lose."
The Bengals are experts at losing, going 55-137 since owner Mike Brown took control 12 years ago. They hit bottom last season, drawing the three smallest crowds in the history of Paul Brown Stadium.
Although Brown detests change, he knew he had to do something to keep selling tickets. Brown broke with his pattern of promoting from within, and he hired the team's first black head coach.
"I think we've turned over a new leaf for the Bengals," Brown said. "We are starting fresh. He has the respect of people throughout the National Football League. He sold us, and I think he will sell the people in Cincinnati."
It will be a hard sell to jaded fans. When Lewis' hiring was announced during the second half of Xavier's basketball victory over La Salle, the crowd of 10,250 had a lukewarm response that seemed to say: It's nice, but it won't make much difference.
Lewis' hiring will please the league, which has been under pressure from a group led by Johnnie Cochran Jr. and Cyrus Mehri to hire more minorities. All 32 teams agreed last month to interview minorities when they have openings.
Lewis currently is the third black head coach in the NFL, joining Tony Dungy of Indianapolis and Herman Edwards of the New York Jets.
Lewis has put together defenses that could overcome any type of offensive attack. The challenge now is to overcome an inadequate and indecisive front office that is the franchise's biggest obstacle.
Brown won't bring in a general manager, won't add to the NFL's smallest coaching staff and won't turn control of the team over to his head coach. When he was introduced Tuesday night in Alabama, Lewis was as optimistic as his failed predecessors when asked about the front office constraints.
"I'm very comfortable with that and confident as we go forward that I'll have the opportunity here to interject and work along with [the Brown family] to help this football team get better," he said. "That's been an exciting part of the process."
Brown also interviewed former Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin and Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey before settling on Lewis. Brown was in Mobile, Ala., scouting the Senior Bowl when he offered Lewis the job.