Lewis gains respect off the field
Share with others:
The scoreboard said Marvin Lewis was a loser again, his Cincinnati Bengals on the wrong end of a 27-10 score against the Steelers last night at Heinz Field. As they've often done in this miserable season, the Bengals fought the good fight but came up short. They are 1-9-1. Bottom line: They stink.
Still, this trip home for Lewis -- pride of McDonald and a former Steelers and Pitt assistant -- turned out pretty well, all things considered.
The man might have lost a game, but he took charge of his team like never before.
That won't save the Bengals this season -- as if anything could -- but it could be huge for him next season and beyond.
For a franchise long known for tolerating undisciplined, even abhorrent player behavior, the Bengals made big news yesterday -- positive news, it says here -- when they sent home star wide receiver Chad "Ya Doesn't Have To Call Me Johnson" Ocho Cinco before the game. Ocho Cinco -- who legally changed his name to match his number and is as good a symbol as any for what's wrong with today's look-at-me NFL players -- was late for an offensive meeting Wednesday night and then had words with Lewis.
Enough was enough for Lewis, whose job, by all accounts from Cincinnati, isn't in jeopardy despite the Bengals' hideous record.
It was time to take a stand and the coach took it.
Really, did he have a choice?
"I think it was just a statement from the coach that, in this type of season, we all need to be on the same page," veteran defensive tackle John Thornton said. "So he suspended Chad and we moved on."
"I don't know what happened, but I'm sure [Ocho Cinco] had done worse."
Lewis wouldn't discuss the incident except to say Johnson violated a team rule. He said he expected him back at work today when the Bengals gather to review the game tape.
Disciplining Ocho Cinco came at a significant short-term cost for the Bengals. This was not a good night for them to be without another key player. They already had to play without three offensive starters -- including quarterback Carson Palmer -- and three defensive starters. They had to start rookie left tackle Anthony Collins, who had played all of six snaps this season, and left guard Nate Livings, who had never been in an NFL game. They also lost defensive ends Frostee Rucker and Robert Geathers to knee injuries in the first half.
Ocho Cinco's replacement, Glenn Holt, hadn't caught a pass all season. He did have a 10-yard touchdown reception to give the Bengals an early 7-0 lead but later had two drops to stop drives. He also didn't do much to draw coverage from wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who came into the game with an NFL-best 73 catches. Houshmandzadeh was no factor with four catches for just 20 yards.
Do you think Ocho Cinco might have made a difference?
He had eight catches for 52 yards and a touchdown when the Steelers beat the Bengals, 38-10, Oct. 19, in a game that was much closer than the final score.
Absolutely, Ocho Cinco would have made a difference.
"I'm sure he would have helped," Houshmandzadeh said. "But we lost eight games with him so I don't know how much. ... Of course, Chad would have helped. He's a good player."
To Lewis' credit, he realized that some things are more important than any one game. No player can be bigger than the team. I repeat: No player.
Not even a terrific receiver with a silly name.
Lewis didn't let the Bengals down. No way. If anything, respect for him had to grow in his locker room. Most players want the coach to demand discipline. Most want and expect their teammates -- even the stars -- to follow the same rules that they must.
"He still has control of the team," Thornton said. "Guys still respect him. He didn't have to do what he did [to get respect] ...
"It's been a tough year. To lose your starting quarterback and some of the guys we've lost. ... It's tough."
Injuries are one thing. Insubordination is something much different.
Ocho Cinco has only himself to blame for not being there for the Bengals. Talk about letting the fellows down. I'm not sure how he's going to look his teammates in the eye today.
Ocho Cinco did get what he wanted, though, in one sad sense. He was the center of attention even if he wasn't anywhere near Heinz Field. Everyone was talking about him.
For all of the wrong reasons.
First Published November 21, 2008 12:27 am