Morning Stripes: Marvin Lewis takes blame

December, 18, 2013
12/18/13
8:20
AM ET
As we transition fully on the Bengals blog into coverage of Sunday's game between the Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals, we start with a look at the relationship between the teams' head coaches, Marvin Lewis and Leslie Frazier.

To those who don't understand the dynamic of Lewis' and Frazier's history, the question about it that was posed to the Bengals coach in the middle of Tuesday's weekly news conference may have been considered an innocuous one.

When Lewis answered, though, it became clear just how complicated the dynamic has been over the years. So difficult, that he took blame for why it went south.

"A difficult thing transpired then, and probably more my fault than Leslie's," Lewis said. "Actually, it was all my fault more than Leslie's."

This offseason will mark nine years since Frazier, formally the Bengals' defensive coordinator, wasn't retained by Lewis following back-to-back horrendous defensive showings by the Bengals in Lewis' first two seasons as head coach. At times during those two seasons, Lewis -- who was weaning himself off being a defensive coordinator -- tried to step in and take over for Frazier. Specifically, Lewis jumped and executed some of the play calling in a midseason loss to Cleveland during the 2004 season, Frazier's last with the Bengals.

Lewis explained his "my fault" referred in part to the way he was still trying to figure things out as a first-time head coach.

"A little bit of that and me just not being supportive enough of him in the right ways," Lewis said. "I'm a lot better now than I was then."

When Frazier brings his 4-9-1 Vikings to Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, it will be the first time he has coached a regular-season game in Cincinnati as a head coach since his controversial departure. A win might help his tenure in Minnesota, but it's unlikely. He's been on the hot seat much of the year.

As we get into Wednesday's Morning Stripes, we begin with another look at the Frazier/Lewis relationship:
  • Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson witnessed those rocky first two seasons under Lewis and provides additional context on the intrigue that might play out this weekend when Frazier comes back to Cincinnati. As Hobson notes, it also was refreshing to hear Lewis offer a dose of honesty and to own up for what he deemed a past mistake. That doesn't happen often with head football coaches.
  • Lewis intimated Tuesday that he was ready for members of the media to stop discussing the hit that ended punter Kevin Huber's season. But it was tough to do so when so much Huber-related news was occurring on the day. For starters, Huber was placed on injured reserve that afternoon. While in a neck brace, he told the Associated Press' Joe Kay that he was getting oral surgery Friday to fix the chin portion of his jaw. That area was broken by a massive blindside block on him during a 67-yard punt return for touchdown. As we wrote for ESPN.com, the NFL now considers the hit illegal.
  • In case you haven't seen the hit that ended Huber's season, just take a look at his Twitter avatar. As the Los Angeles Times' Chuck Schilken notes, Huber has changed his avatar to a photo of the hit.
  • To fill Huber's punting and holding duties, the Bengals signed Tuesday former Buffalo Bills punter Shawn Powell. Hobson has this detailed look for Bengals.com at what Powell has gone through to arrive in Cincinnati for this opportunity.
  • As the Cincinnati Enquirer shifts gears toward looking at Sunday's game between the Vikings and Bengals, Joe Reedy has this look at the role Minnesota currently has embraced: the role of spoiler. Last week's 48-30 win over NFC East leader Philadelphia helped complicate that division race with two weeks remaining in the season. After losing to Pittsburgh last weekend, the Bengals have to be on guard this weekend, too.

Coley Harvey

ESPN Cincinnati Bengals reporter

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