Bengals sign Lewis to new four-year contract
Updated: Monday August 2, 2004 7:39PM
By Don Banks, SI.com
GEORGETOWN, Ky. -- The Cincinnati Bengals reported to training camp over the weekend intent on building on the success of their turnaround 2003 season, when they went 8-8 under rookie head coach Marvin Lewis and posted their first non-losing record since 1996.
SI.com has learned that Cincinnati's ownership was so pleased with the team's resurgence that they approached Lewis about a contract extension shortly after the season ended, and wound up raising his salary and locking him up through 2007. The move was not announced by the team, but Lewis confirmed it Monday at the team's Georgetown College training camp site.
The Bengals originally signed Lewis to a four-year deal in January 2003, hiring him away from the Washington Redskins, where he served as defensive coordinator on Steve Spurrier's staff. But Cincinnati owner Mike Brown tore up that contract this winter, awarding Lewis a new four-year deal. Salary terms have not been divulged, but Lewis' original contract averaged about $1.5 million annually. It is believed his new deal pushes him over the $2 million per season threshold.
"It was very positive and very gracious and flattering to me, wanting to renegotiate and extend the contract,'' Lewis said. "[Mike Brown] just felt like the two of us could make this thing work long term. ... My family was very excited and it was an easy decision to do.''
After an 0-3 start last season, the Bengals streaked to eight wins in 11 games, thrusting themselves into serious playoff contention for the first time in years. Though they dropped their final two games of the season to miss the postseason, the Bengals rejuvenated Cincinnati's longsuffering fan base, which has endured the longest current playoff drought in the NFL. The Bengals last made the playoffs and had a winning record in 1990, the penultimate season of head coach Sam Wyche's eight-year tenure.
Hiring Lewis has turned into a profitable move for the Bengals, in that Cincinnati's five Paul Brown Stadium sellouts last season were its most since 1992 at Riverfront Stadium. The Bengals this year already have sold out of single-game tickets for six of its eight home games at the 65,327-seat stadium, and has a decent shot of selling out the entire season, season tickets included, before the regular-season home opener Sept. 19 against Miami.
Cincinnati drew a team-record 479,488 to its eight home games last season, and is expected to crack the 500,000 mark for the first time in franchise history this year.
Before Lewis's hiring, the most recent four Bengals head coaches all had losing records: Dick LeBeau in 2000-2002 (12-33), Bruce Coslet in 1996-2000 (21-39), Dave Shula in 1992-96 (19-52) and Wyche in 1984-91 (64-68).