Marvin Lewis’ first NFL job was a linebackers coach for Pittsburgh in 1992, the year after Chuck Noll had retired as Steelers head coach.
But even though Lewis, a Pittsburgh native, never got a chance to work alongside the legendary Hall of Famer who passed away last weekend, he said he learned a great deal from the man.
“He had a great temperament about him,” Lewis said. “He was a very physical person, and he had physical football teams. He was demanding as a football coach. You learn from that. When I went there to coach in ‘92, they were a hard-working football team.”
While the Bengals have yet to experience the kind of success the Steelers did while making Noll the only coach in NFL history to win four Super Bowls, Lewis said he has tried build his current team from the mold cast in Pittsburgh three decades earlier.
“They had big, tough lineman there, and that’s what we have,” he said. “They had a defense that would be smothering, so you want to have that. You want to have big production from your wideouts and the quarterback’s got to be able to throw the ball effectively. Hopefully we have all those things in place.
“I think you’ve got to change with the times,” Lewis added. “It’s a little different time now. But I think the fundamentals of their football team were very important. And that’s being able to score productively by passing the ball, run the ball effectively to win the games and play great defense.”
Lewis said he was fortunate enough to be paired with Noll in a couple of celebrity golf scrambles, and the thing he remembers most about those outings were how the other players in the group tried to get the coach to tell football stories. Noll was more interested in talking about the leaves on the tree or the beer he brewed the previous week, Lewis said.
“The only thing he ever said relating to sports and competitiveness was when the guys would leave the last putt for him and he would say ‘Oh, there’s no pressure,’ ” Lewis said. “His temperament about competition was great.”
Strong secondary: The Cincinnati Bengals ranked fifth in the NFL against the pass last year, allowing an average of only 209 yards through the air per game.
But the unit at the back end of that defense deserves an even higher ranking, according to Mike Tanier of Sports on Earth, who lists the Bengals as the second-best secondary in the NFL behind the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.
“The Bengals finished third in the NFL at stopping No. 1 receivers, third against No. 2 receivers and sixth against Nos. 3-5 receivers,” Tanier writes. “They did it with Geno Atkins hurt for much of the year, sapping some of their pass-rush capability. So the secondary was doing something right.
“When you watch Bengals game, it’s enlightening how often quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers pump-fake, check down and leave the pocket to buy time, a sign that the Bengals secondary has clamped down on the original route combination.”
With first-round pick Darqueze Dennard officially under contract after signing a four-year, $8 million deal Thursday, the Bengals have five first-round cornerbacks (Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick and Dennard) and a first-round safety (Reggie Nelson) in their secondary. Safety Danieal Manning, who signed as a free agent earlier this offseason, was a high second-round selection (42nd overall).
Fellowship four: The Bengals coaching staff is working with four interns this summer as part of the 2014 Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship program.
Joining the staff are Theron Grinage Jr., a defensive line coach at Long Island Univeristy-Post; Brad Jackson, a former University of Cincinnati player who played four seasons in the NFL; Duane Starks, a former NFL defensive back for eight seasons; and Andrew Jordan Jr., a former NFL tight end who has coached at Earlham College.
Jordan Jr.’s time with the team will end at the conclusion of OTAs today, but the other three will continue with the Bengals through portions of training camp in July and August.
Three current Bengals coaches – head coach Marvin Lewis, Jay Hayes (defensive line) and Brian Braswell (offensive assistant) – have been interns in the program.