Some people are mad. Others apathetic. A few supportive. We’ve even reached the burning jerseys in the snow and posting to social media portion of the program.
One aspect we can settle on in the wake of Marvin Lewis’ controversial return on a two-year contract: Everybody has an opinion.
The problem is, these opinions aren’t always based in fact. After 15 years, criticisms shifted both Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis into almost caricatures of themselves. It’s easy to lose sight of what complaints own merit and which are fallacy repeated into relevancy.
So, I asked those of you filling up my mentions to drop your primary gripe with Brown and Lewis on me, so I could find the most stated and dive into whether these are fact or fiction.
This came with the caveat of 0-7 in the playoffs not serving as a viable complaint because it’s the obvious, undeniable failure of the Lewis-Brown partnership.
Over the next five days, I take on the five most mentioned.
Today: Lewis struggles with halftime adjustments?
This showed up the most because it burns vividly into the recent memory of fans. The last two seasons have been filled with prominent games where the Bengals jumped out to leads at the break and were flattened in the second half.
If not for the shocking fourth-and-12 touchdown against Baltimore, the dramatic season finale would have looked like so many disappointments of a double-digit halftime evaporated into a day of what could have been.
Lewis debates the validity of “halftime adjustments.” With 12 minutes to enter the locker room and return to the field, only so many changes in plans can be discussed, to be certain.
“The ‘adjustment,’ that’s more journalism jargon than truth,” he said in a press conference to close the 2016 season.
Whether talking about actual adjustments or evaluating late-game performance, that’s merely semantics.
The truth lies in the numbers, in this case.
Let’s start with the last two seasons before pulling back to the big picture.
In the 14 games where the Bengals led at the half the last two years they went 9-5. The .643 winning percentage ranks 28th in the NFL over that span.
Since the Andy Dalton-A.J. Green Era commenced in 2011, the Bengals led at the half 59 times. They finished 44-14-1 in those games. That .754 record ranks 18th in the NFL over the span.
Now running all the way back to the beginning of the Marvin Lewis Era, the Bengals have gone 88-31-2 in games where they led at halftime. That .736 mark ranks 23rd in the NFL over that time.
Only once in Lewis’ 15 seasons have the Bengals finished in the top 10 of the NFL in protecting halftime leads. On the flip side, seven times they finished in the bottom 10.
No matter the era of which you break down, the Bengals have finished in the bottom half of the league or worse in holding on to a halftime lead.
The New England Patriots, unsurprisingly, lead the NFL in protecting leads over the span with a .913 winning percentage, going 147-14 when leading at the break since 2003.
Perhaps a better comparison would be the Bengals’ direct AFC North rival, Pittsburgh. The Steelers rank third in the NFL over the Lewis Era with a .865 winning percentage.
If the Bengals would have protected halftime leads at the same clip during the Lewis Era, they would have 17 more wins. That equates to more than one win per season and on more than one occasion serve as the difference between winning and losing the division or making the playoffs.
Speaking of the postseason, Cincinnati owned a halftime lead in two of the seven playoff losses. In 2005 against Pittsburgh and 2013 against the Chargers they led at the break by a field goal. They were outscored by a combined 37 points after halftime in those defeats.
Whether all this stems from “adjustments” or that’s truly journalism jargon for teams that don’t make enough plays in defining moments probably doesn’t matter in this case.
Call it what you want, the numbers back up the most common fan complaint.