Aug 17, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden in the third quarter of a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
When it comes to the playoffs, it can’t get much worse.
The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, a 23-year streak of futility that’s tied for sixth-longest in NFL history. They’ve lost their opening playoff game three straight seasons, tying the NFL record.
And Lewis is fast rising up the charts for postseason coaching defeats. He’s 0-5 in 11 years as the Bengals head coach. Only Jim Mora started his career with more consecutive playoff losses (6).
The five straight playoff losses are tied for second-most overall — Marty Schottenheimer, Jim Mora and Steve Owen lost six each. And the five straight playoff losses are the second-most with one team, trailing only the Giants’ Owen, who lost six playoff games in an 11-year span from 1939-1950.
Lewis has a year left on his contract and is safe in Cincinnati, where owner Mike Brown is reluctant to change. Lewis bristled on Monday when asked if he’s in a unique situation that way.
"I don’t think the situation is unique at all," Lewis said. "I think if the other places were in the situation — they lost a playoff game after winning the division — their head coach would be in place. Don’t you?"
The big offseason question is whether they’re still fully committed to Dalton, who has been horrid in three playoff losses. Dalton turned the ball over three times in the second half on Sunday, and has one touchdown pass and six interceptions in his three postseason games.
Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said on Monday that Dalton shouldn’t be singled out for blame, noting the entire offense struggled. He acknowledged that Dalton played poorly in the second half, when Cincinnati was outscored 20-0.
"If there is one negative, I think that Andy probably pressed a little too much and tried to do too many things out of pocket which is not what his strength is," Gruden said.
Dalton is entering the final year on his deal, so the Bengals have to decide whether to offer a long-term extension or consider other options. Lewis reassured him on Monday that his confidence in him hasn’t wavered.
"I think everybody knows what I’ve been able to do here, what we’ve been able to do since I’ve been here as a team," Dalton said. "And so I think I’ve got a lot of confidence in the stuff Marvin has been telling me. I expect to be here for a long time. I’m hoping that is the case."
There’s a chance both coordinators could move on.
Gruden said the Vikings, Titans and Redskins have contacted him about interviews later in the week. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer expects to have three interviews later in the week, though he wouldn’t identify the teams. Both have interviewed for head coaching jobs in the past.
The defense finished the season ranked No. 3 and the offense was No. 10.
"I’ve been in the league now three years as a coordinator and obviously with my brother (Jon) for a lot of years," Gruden said. "If that challenge were to come about, I think I’d be ready. But I’m happy staying here too."
Zimmer has been Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator for six seasons. He’s never been a head coach.
"You never know what happens," he said. "Who calls? Who’s really interested? Who’s not? There’s so many different variables."
Players tossed their gear in bags and put their old cleats in donation boxes in the locker room on Monday, knowing they’re in for another year of shouldering the label of the team that can’t win the big one.
When asked whether he’ll look back on the 11-win, AFC North championship season as a partial success or as a total disappointment, linebacker Vontaze Burfict winced.