The saga of Marvin Lewis resembled something of a circus on Sunday afternoon.
Lewis denied a report by ESPN's Adam Schefter, who was told by sources that Lewis plans to leave Cincinnati at the conclusion of his contract. Lewis' contract, along with those of several assistants, expires at the end of the season.
Lewis said he didn't think his players had been looking at the news before the game and thought it didn't have any effect on the outcome of the 33-7 loss to the Vikings.
"No, these guys are on their phone with somebody that’s not watching or has anything to do with the NFL," Lewis said in his postgame news conference.
Lewis said that he briefly addressed the issue with his players and told them not to be concerned.
"He just mentioned it," quarterback Andy Dalton told reporters in his postgame news conference. "But, I think at the end of the day we just have to keep playing. That’s all that was really said."
It was clear the players didn't appear to be on the same page as Lewis, with some finding out the news on social media and others hearing it through word of mouth that quickly spread through the locker room.
Some players, like A.J. Green, said Lewis did not address the reports, while others said he did.
"He didn’t address it and he didn’t need to address it," Green told reporters after the game. "We all get paid to do our job, no matter what happens. My heart is in every play and we have to deal with the results."
"I don’t think Marvin is that messy to say something like that before a game, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt," Dunlap told reporters. "No, he didn’t even address it. If you don’t feel guilty or have a guilty conscience, then why would you address it? It may or may not be true, but at the end of the day, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. I still had a football game to play."
The Bengals have now dropped three straight and have been blown out in the past two games. There's clearly a disconnect looming in the organization between the coaching staff and the players that will have to be rectified if they want to end the season on somewhat of a positive note.
If Lewis plans to leave at the end of the season, he should let his players know. Otherwise, it's clear the product on the field will continue to suffer.
"Until the season is over and until whatever happens, he is still going to coach us to death," LaFell told the media. "We are still going to look forward to meetings tomorrow, watching this film, getting it behind us, and moving on to the Detroit Lions."
"[If Lewis leaves], it will hurt a lot of guys," LaFell added. "It will hurt. ... This is the only coach they have ever had, this is the only coach that has been here for 10-plus years. To change, it will hurt. But we have enough guys, we have enough professionals around here that they will know there is a new coach coming in, pick up your jockstraps, continue to practice, and prove to the next coach that you can play."