- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The last time coach Marvin Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals signed an extension was January 2011, two days after an expected playoff team finished with a 4-12 record.
On Tuesday, the Bengals and Lewis did it the right way, getting a deal done before the regular season. They reached an extension that will keep him with the team through the 2014 season. This removes uncertainty from Lewis' status. It tells a young Bengals team, which could easily get distracted, that Lewis isn't going anywhere.
Coming off a surprising 9-7 season and a trip to the playoffs, the Bengals can now put all of their focus on the field, whether it's finding a No. 2 wide receiver or getting their cornerbacks healthy. The Bengals can put all of their energy in trying to put consecutive winning seasons together for the first time since 1981 and '82.
"I'm glad this is all behind now and we can move forward and coach," Lewis said during his Tuesday news conference. "I'm really happy to get the extension done and move forward. And just I think the excitement with what we've done, our football team, there still is a lot of work to do. The goals that we have in place are very, very important to achieve. ... There is nobody in Cincinnati who wants to win more than that man [Bengals owner Mike Brown] upstairs, and it’s my job to get him there."
The 2010 Bengals didn't have this luxury. That team was coming off a playoff season in 2009 and played in 2010 not knowing if Lewis would be there beyond that season. The result was the most disappointing season in franchise history. A lot of the blame for that season has to go to the Chad Ochocinco-Terrell Owens sideshow, but Lewis' lame duck status didn't help.
The Bengals have now become one of the more stable franchises in the league. Before reaching an agreement with Lewis, Cincinnati signed defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to an extension through 2014 and struck a three-year extension with offensive coordinator Jay Gruden in January.
Entering his 10th season with the Bengals, Lewis ranks third in the NFL in longest current tenure with one team, behind only Philadelphia’s Andy Reid and New England’s Bill Belichick.
Critics will point out the numerous player arrests and the fact the team has yet to win a playoff game under Lewis. But Lewis deserved this extension and deserved to have one completed before the season so he didn't have to continually answer questions about it.
He's the winningest coach in Bengals history (69-77-1), which is a great achievement when it comes with a franchise that struggled mightily before his arrival. He guided the Bengals to a 9-7 record and a trip to the playoffs in 2011 after beginning the season as the worst-ranked team in many power rankings, including ESPN.com's.
In fact, Lewis has taken the Bengals to the playoffs in two of the past three seasons. Only nine other teams can say the same thing. In his nine years in Cincinnati, Lewis has had only three losing seasons.
“Coming off a playoff finish last year, with a solid coaching staff and good young players, continuity at the top gives us our best chance to do well,” Brown said. “We are excited about the team’s prospects and happy to have completed this process with Marvin before the 2012 preseason schedule begins.”