CINCINNATI -- During his regularly-scheduled Monday press briefing, Marvin Lewis remained steadfast in his denial of a report that he will step down as Cincinnati Bengals head coach at the end of this season.
"We're really just wasting time talking about this right now," Lewis said. "I can't block the noise out. Just let it die down. It's an unfortunate thing that causes a lot of angst for no reason."
The Bengals (5-9) suffered their third straight loss on Sunday, 34-7 to the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Prior to the game, a report by ESPN's Adam Schefter, who cited league sources, stated that Lewis planned to leave his job after the season, ending his 15-year reign as head coach in Cincinnati.
Lewis was not offered a contract extension this past offseason for the first time since 2010, and some close to the organization saw that decision as the first step toward a mutual parting of the ways.
It has been customary with the Bengals organization to meet the first Monday following the conclusion of the regular season to discuss personnel or coaching changes. Lewis said on Monday that he and team president Mike Brown speak daily but have not yet discussed his contract for next season.
"We're going to address next year when next year comes," Lewis said.
In 2003, Lewis took over a team in shambles coming off a 2-14 season and vowed, in his words, to bring the NFL back to Cincinnati. Most would say he succeeded.
Lewis is the Bengals' winningest head coach with 123 wins, and his teams have won four AFC North titles. But, his 0-7 record in the playoffs and two straight losing seasons, including this year, have resulted in a sentiment among Bengals fans that the time has come for a change.
The 59-year-old Lewis said "sure" when asked by a reporter Monday if he would be open to coaching again next season, more specifically in Cincinnati. "Are you making an offer?" Lewis quipped.
Despite the Bengals being eliminated from the playoffs, Lewis said his team has plenty to play for in the final two weeks, if only individually. And, he added that discussing his future only serves as a distraction for his players.
"It's not the pertinent thing right now," Lewis said. "The pertinent thing right now is to coach the football team. That's what my job is, that's what I'm supposed to do. It will be addressed when we address it."
--The Bengals are eliminated from the playoffs and have lost three straight games, including the past two by a combined 67-14. Lewis disagreed with a reporter's assertion that the team had little left to play for the final two weeks.
"This is the professionals," Lewis said. "They are driven to be the best at what they do. Be held in high esteem. Earn playing time. Nobody's checked out or will check out."
--Lewis said not to read too much into backup QB AJ McCarron getting snaps in blowout losses the past two weeks. The former Alabama star has gone 7-of-14 passing for 66 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions the past two weeks. McCarron replaced Andy Dalton with 10 minutes remaining in Sunday's 34-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
"I just wanted to give AJ an opportunity to play at that point," Lewis said Monday. "We weren't going to win the football game, so we might as well give AJ an opportunity to play."
NOTES: RB Joe Mixon returned to practice last week but was limited. He was inactive for the second straight game on Sunday. He left the December 4 game against the Steelers in the first half with a concussion. ... DT Geno Atkins' performance was overshadowed in the 34-7 loss at Minnesota. He had two sacks, including one on the game's first play, two tackles for loss and a couple QB hits. Atkins now has three straight seasons of nine of more sacks. ... LT Cedric Ogbuehi appeared to aggravate a shoulder injury in the first quarter of Sunday's 34-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Ogbuehi will be in the final year of his four-year deal next season. He has dealt with myriad injuries, but had shown some improvement this season after struggling early in the year.
REPORT CARD VS. VIKINGS
--PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Things went from bad to worse for Andy Dalton on Sunday in Minnesota. Dalton was 11 for 22 for only 113 yards in the 34-7 loss. Dalton finished with a 27.3 passer rating and threw a pick-six in the first quarter. The Vikings' defense all but eliminated A.J. Green from the attack, with only two catches for 30 yards on four targets.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- Joe Mixon was inactive for the second week in a row, and the Bengals could get nothing going in the running game. Giovani Bernard led the team with 30 yards on 14 carries and the lone touchdown. Cincinnati averaged only 2.3 yards per attempt.
--PASS DEFENSE: D -- The Bengals' injury-ravaged defense allowed 236 passing yards to Case Keenum, who had only three incompletions all afternoon on 23 attempts. He had two touchdown passes, and running back Jerick McKinnon had 114 receiving yards including one 41-yard catch.
--RUSH DEFENSE: D -- The absence of three starting linebackers, including the top two tacklers from the Bengals' defense, was glaring as the Vikings rushed for 124 yards on 34 carries and a touchdown. Latavius Murray led them with 76 yards and a TD. QB Case Keenum had a 20-yard run.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Bengals punter Kevin Huber was busy on Sunday, averaging 40.5 net yards on eight punts, including two inside the 20. Randy Bullock, on the other hand, wasn't very busy. He only kicked off twice and didn't attempt a field goal.
--COACHING: F -- Injuries had an impact, but Sunday's game at Minnesota might have been lost before the opening kickoff when the team learned of a report that head coach Marvin Lewis had decided not to return next season. Players and team officials said the ESPN report was their first indication that Lewis had made up his mind. Lewis addressed the team following Sunday's game about not letting rumors affect their performance on the field. That, however, was after the 34-7 thrashing at U.S. Bank Stadium.