CINCINNATI — The Bengals have parted ways with longtime coach Marvin Lewis.
Lewis had one season remaining on a contract extension he signed last year. In a statement, the team said the decision was mutual.
The 60-year-old Lewis coached the Bengals for 16 seasons and had a 131-122-3 record with them. Although he leaves with the most wins in franchise history, his 0-7 record in the playoffs and 8-26 record against the Pittsburgh Steelers looms large over his tenure.
“I want to thank the Bengals’ organization, the fans and the city of Cincinnati for their support,” Lewis said in the statement. “I regret I haven’t been able to provide them with the No. 1 goal of being world champions. I also want to thank our players, coaches and team employees for their effort and professionalism over the past 16 years. A lot of fine people have gone through this building in that time, and the organization is better for all of them having been a part of it.”
Speculation about Lewis’ future has clouded the past few years, particularly as the team struggled to return to the success they had from 2011 to ’15, when they made five straight playoff appearances. The Bengals re-signed Lewis last season despite mounting dissatisfaction from a fan base that has not seen a playoff win since the 1990 season.
“The team is very appreciative of all that Marvin has accomplished over the past 16 years,” Bengals president Mike Brown said in the statement. “Personally, I am very fond of Marvin and will miss working with him. He is a friend and a colleague, and I thank him for what he has meant to this franchise. But it is time to turn the page and look toward the next chapter for our organization, and we are excited about what the future holds for the team and our fans.”
A large portion of the fan base did not return following the decision to re-sign Lewis, and attendance at Paul Brown Stadium dropped to its lowest levels since the 2011 season, despite a 4-1 start that sparked hope the Bengals could return to the playoffs this year.
The attendance numbers at home games continued to drop as the season went from promising to disastrous.
The defense struggled badly enough to warrant the firing of defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, and injuries plagued the starting lineup.
By the end of the season, 18 players were on injured reserve, including quarterback Andy Dalton, star wideout A.J. Green, starting tight end Tyler Eifert, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and linebacker Preston Brown.
Lewis picked up the defensive coordinator reins this season for the first time since 2002 when he served a one-year stint as Redskins defensive coordinator. Lewis’ defensive prowess was the reason he began attracting interest as a head coach in 2000. As defensive coordinator of the 2000 Ravens, he led one of the best defenses of all time to a win in Super Bowl XXXV that season.
Although the defense showed improvement after Lewis took over this year, the team did not take a big enough step forward to warrant keeping him for another season. The defense will almost certainly finish last in the league in yards allowed and points allowed.