Wednesday, January 15, 2003
Bengals pin their hopes on Lewis
'We turned over a new leaf,' Brown says
By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer
POINT CLEAR, Ala. - Marvin Lewis, introduced Tuesday night at a resort hotel here as the ninth Bengals head coach, promised to bring a blue-collar work ethic and discipline to a struggling team and organization.
"This is about hard work," said Lewis, the son of a western Pennsylvania steel worker. "Places don't lose. People win and lose. I have a plan."
Mike Brown introduces Marvin Lewis as the new Bengals coach.
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Lewis replaces one of his mentors, former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who was fired after the Bengals recorded a franchise-worst 2-14 record this season.
Lewis is the eighth African-American head coach in NFL history. He is just the third active African-American head coach in the league, joining Indianapolis' Tony Dungy and the Jets' Herman Edwards.
"I believe I have a situation to uphold," Lewis said when asked about the race issue. "I represent coaches who came up the way I did - from I-AA and being a graduate assistant."
He played college football at Idaho State as a linebacker and earned a degree in physical education. He also earned a master's degree in athletic administration in 1982.
Lewis wrapped up negotiations Tuesday with Bengals president Mike Brown and business development director Troy Blackburn. Lewis declined to reveal the length and value of the contract he signed Tuesday afternoon, although national reports place it at five years with incentive clauses.
Lewis' hiring is the first of an African-American coach since the NFL instituted a new minority hiring initiative on Dec. 20. Attorneys Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. and Cyrus Mehri, who put pressure on the league, praised the Bengals' hiring of Lewis in a statement released Tuesday night (Text of statement).
"Today's decision by the Cincinnati Bengals to hire Marvin Lewis as their head coach opens a new chapter for the NFL as the first hire which fully carries out the new hiring process. We couldn't be happier for Marvin, the Bengals and the Cincinnati community. This is truly a great day for everyone involved."
Lewis said he is aware of the racial climate in Cincinnati but not in great detail.
"It has been a positive step for the organization - white, black or green," he said. "Winning football games and working hard at it, people will appreciate."
The Bengals have a contingent at the annual Senior Bowl college all-star game, and Lewis arrived Monday as the Washington Redskins defensive coordinator to scout draft-eligible players.
MARVIN LEWIS FILE
College: Idaho State (B.A. in physical education, master's in athletic administration).
High school: Fort Cherry, McDonald, Pa. All-conference quarterback and safety. Also wrestled and played baseball.
Family: Wife Peggy; children Whitney, Marcus.
Years of coaching: 22.
NFL resume: 1992-95: Linebackers coach, Pittsburgh Steelers. 1996-2001: Defensive coordinator, Baltimore Ravens. 2002: Defensive coordinator, Washington Redskins.
College resume: 1981-84: Linebackers coach, Idaho State. 1985-86: Linebackers coach, Long Beach State. 1987-89: Linebackers coach, New Mexico. 1990-91: Linebackers coach, Pittsburgh.
College honors: Three-time All-Big Sky Conference linebacker (1978, '79, '80). Also played quarterback and free safety.
Highlights: His defense led the Ravens to the 2001 Super Bowl championship while setting NFL 16-game records for fewest points allowed and fewest rushing yards allowed.
He put on a white Bengals golf shirt emblazoned with the team logo for his news conference at the Marriott's Grand Hotel, about 30 miles southeast of Mobile.
Brown noted the out-of-the-way location, some 740 miles from Paul Brown Stadium. Lewis' hiring ends a search that began 15 days ago.
"We worked hard to get this right," Brown said when introducing the coach. "We worked hard for the candidates, the team, the fans. We turned over a new leaf for the Bengals.
"He sold us. We think he will sell the people in Cincinnati."
It will be a tough sell. The Bengals have a combined 55-137 record since their last playoff appearance, which followed the 1990 season.
Lewis, 44, said he is confident he can win with the Bengals.
"Before you win, you have to learn how to win," said Lewis, who was a Super Bowl-winning defensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens in 2000. "You have to learn how not to lose.
"We're going to set a standard for how it's going to be. People would say I'm a disciplinarian. There is a right way to do things, but you can't coach 53 guys the same way."
Lewis is familiar with the Bengals organization and played the team many times while he was an assistant coach with the Steelers and Ravens. He pointed out the number of talented players the Bengals have on their roster without mentioning names. He referred to the strong play of quarterback Jon Kitna down the stretch and Corey Dillon, one of the NFL's top running backs.
"I think it was the best decision," Kitna said of the hiring. "He's somebody that all 53 guys will respect from Day One. He will command the respect and attention of all the players."
Linebacker Takeo Spikes, one of the Bengals' top stars, will be a free agent when his contract expires on March 3. He said he respects Lewis but is skeptical that one person alone can change the atmosphere surrounding the team.
"It's like having a cold," Spikes said of the hire. "You're treating the symptoms, not trying to cure it."
He was referring to Brown's refusal to hire a general manager or make significant changes in the front office.
"He needs a certain amount of control and let everybody know he's in charge," Spikes said. "He has to be able to go to the front office and get what he needs."
Lewis and San Diego Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer both attended Fort Cherry High School in McDonald, Pa., just outside of Pittsburgh.
"He's considerably younger than I, but he was a renowned player in high school and has become an outstanding coach," Schottenheimer said. "I think he'll do a terrific job. You never know how a guy will do until it happens, but I certainly think he's ready."
Lewis said he would return to his Baltimore-area home today and would be at work at Paul Brown Stadium on Friday. His first order of business is to form a staff, one in splinters because of firings and departures.
Lewis also declined to mention any names of possible staff members.
"I want to make sure we're fair with the guys who are on the Bengals staff, but I want to have guys who fit my personality," he said.
Lewis is an 11-year NFL assistant coach best known for his 2000 Ravens defense, which set an NFL record by allowing just 165 points in 16 games.
Lewis is the first Bengals head coach hired from the outside - not from the existing staff - since Sam Wyche was brought in from Indiana University in 1984.
In his first and only season as Redskins defensive coordinator, Lewis led the defense to a No. 5 league ranking.
Lewis was the Steelers linebackers coach from 1992-95 and Ravens defensive coordinator from 1996-01.
Other candidates interviewed were Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, former Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin and Bengals assistant coaches Mark Duffner and Jim Anderson.
Lewis and his wife, Peggy, have a son, Marcus; and a daughter, Whitney.
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