Lewis says Bengals will 'start from scratch'

Jan 4, 2018 - 1:29 AM CINCINNATI -- The more things stay the same for the Cincinnati Bengals, the more they will change, according to head coach Marvin Lewis who despite two straight losing seasons and an 0-7 mark in the playoffs, was granted a two-year contract extension on Tuesday.

"We have to build better," Lewis said, while addressing the media on Wednesday at Paul Brown Stadium. "We have to be better than I've been. Obviously, the way our season finished this year is not what we wanted. We have to get back at it."

Lewis, 59, is the winningest coach in Bengals history with 125 career victories, ranking 26th all-time in NFL history and fourth among active coaches.

But, many felt the time for a change was now. The Bengals won their final two games to finish 7-9, but a dismal three-game losing skid in which they blew a 17-point lead to the Steelers and then were outscored 67-14 in losses to the Bears and Vikings, appeared to have sewn Lewis' fate.

Instead, he will extend his franchise-long head coaching tenure to 16 seasons, twice that of Paul Brown and Sam Wyche.

"You have to start from scratch, regardless," Lewis said. "Might as well start from scratch with someone you understand and know."

There will be other changes to the coaching staff.

The Bengals announced on Wednesday that offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and special teams coach Darrin Simmons would be back, but offensive line coach Paul Alexander is leaving.

Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is expected to interview for the same role with the Raiders, although Lewis indicated the Bengals would be open to him returning.

"We spent the past two days, spending time, three or four times, talking about what where we needed to get better," Lewis said. "We have to build a better football team. First off, it's to get back to the top of this division, and go from there."

Lewis has led the Bengals to the postseason seven times, including five straight years from 2011 to 2015, but the team has not won a playoff game since 1991. Cincinnati won AFC North titles under Lewis in 2005, 2013 and 2015.

The contract negotiations with team owner Mike Brown were collaborative, according to Lewis, who said Brown asked him if he still was "driven" to continue coaching.

"This is a partnership, and I was entrusted to do a job," Lewis said. "I didn't go into it thinking I was going to win anything."

It was clear that strengthening the team via free agency was part of his discussions with Brown. "We're going to have to do a better job of adding some guys from other clubs," said Lewis.

Lazor was promoted from quarterbacks coach to coordinator when Ken Zampese was fired after two games.

The Bengals finished the season ranked 32nd in total offense and 26th in scoring offense.

The offensive line was a puzzle that never came together. Dalton was sacked 39 times and the rushing attack never got going, despite a solid rookie campaign by Joe Mixon.

"We have a lot of talent on this roster and I am excited for the opportunity to build the high-powered offense we have the potential to be," Lazor said. "This offseason will give us the chance to continue the success we had at the end of the year as we develop into a dynamic offense in 2018."

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