1-22-03, 8 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
**New head coach Marvin Lewis allowed bengals.com to trail him all day Tuesday, a rare day in the life of a head coach as he deals with issues as large as finalizing his first coaching staff, to as minute as stools in front of the players' lockers.
It's not as hectic as "West Wing," but the head coach's office at Paul Brown Stadium is now officially the buzzing home of "Marvin's Manifest."
His plan, and he has a plan for everything from hiring a defensive coordinator to getting to his son's basketball practice, is to take the ball Bengals President Mike Brown has given him and running with it. He is re-thinking everything. From training camp food, to diet on the road, to more centralized scouting schedules, to community outreach, to coaching interns. You name it, he has written it on a Post -it-Note.
"I'm going to run until they pull me back," Lewis says. "Then I'll go again. That's fine. It's a process."
If someone dares tell him it hasn't been done quite that way around here, he shrugs and says, "It's a new day," and so far Brown and the front office seem to be enjoying the sunrise.
7:25 a.m.:** And it is a new day. The cell phone is already tethered to his ear as he eases into the car to take him to the stadium from his downtown hotel. He is telling 12-year-old Marcus back home in
Maryland to make sure he eats breakfast because he is feeling under the weather.
It's a tough move for an eighth-grader who plays basketball and lacrosse. But he'll be there for his Dad when he tries to move the Bengals places, and his Dad will be there for him on those days he decides to shoot free throws lefty instead of righty because he can do both. With a gentle, "Love you, my man," Lewis is now thinking about the laundry list in his briefcase.
He already shares one trait with Bengals founder Paul Brown. When he gets an idea in the middle of the night, he writes it down. Last night there had been so much going through the mind that he was up at 3 a.m. jotting until he went jogging for a 20-minute loop around the stadium. A morning runner, he game plans his pre-game runs on Sundays at 7 a.m. **
8:15 a.m.:** The definition of a people person? The only thing longer than his smile is his day and because Lewis likes to be around people, this is about the only time all day he'll be rooted to his desk and not roaming the halls.
As he listens to the 11 phone messages he's received while he's firmed up his coaching staff for the last 18 hours, he's leafing through the spiral notebook he knew he would keep once he realized he could become a head coach in the NFL: "What to do the first two weeks on the job."
But he's got a hard time crossing out, "Get back to as many people as possible who contact you when you get the job." His assistant, Jamie Janette walks in with about 20 more messages.
8:30 a.m.: Lewis is trying to get his new assistant strength and conditioning coach, Kurtis Shultz, upstairs to visit with Brown. But first he is trying to get his name spelled right for public relations director Jack Brennan's release. After Lewis scratches out a "C," he goes on to sign a letter to Ravens coach Brian Billick, which is in the "Know," pile. The "Don't Know," pile is a bit more formal.
Janette is another example of Lewis' new day. He brought her from his days in Washington and Baltimore, giving the coaches' office staffed only by the masterful Sandy Schick for the past 18 years an extra assistant.
"She's already in the loop with Sandy," Lewis says. "Sandy took her to see Seinfeld the first day Jamie was here." **
8:50 a.m.:** One of those things in the spiral notebook. Checking on defensive tackle Oliver Gibson's rehab from his torn Achilles tendon. Lewis sits down with trainer Billy Brooks and goes over Gibson's schedule to make sure he knows which days he is supposed to be here and when he isn't expected.
"I don't know how to take that," Gibson will say later with a laugh. He knows Lewis from his rookie year in Pittsburgh when Lewis was the Steelers linebackers coach. "Is it because they want me back badly or are they worried? But that's Marvin. No stone unturned." **
9:20 a.m.:** Lewis hasn't said "No," this many times since his kids were toddlers. All his jobs are pretty much spoken for, but he does want to help one guy get a job and tells him he'll call new Alabama head coach Mike Price for him.
"I can help you there," Lewis says. "You don't have his assistant's number or his direct line? Not like you, dude."
Lewis immediately dials Tuscaloosa and smiles at the reaction to, "Marvin Lewis with the Cincinnati Bengals:" "I don't have to wait as much anymore," he mouths as they briskly connect him to Price's office.
9:40 a.m.: Lewis has got the CEO bookshelf. "David." "Hugs For Dad." "Leadership Secrets of Attila The Hun." "The 21 Most Powerful Moments In a Leader's Day."
"I could never get into that one. I'd start it and couldn't get very far," said Lewis of the most captivating title. So it looks like the Bengals won't be pillaged by Attila on March 24 when offseason workouts start.
"David from the 'The Bible,' is very interesting. He really struggled going up and down and trying to cope with problems."
Lewis goes upstairs to see Brown about setting up a meeting to discuss how he wants to fill out his coaches' scouting schedule. Lewis is taking notes with Brown emphasizing he wants the personnel department to work around what Lewis wants to structure for the coaches. Lewis takes some notes and checks with Brown to make sure 3 p.m. is OK to meet in the draft room with him and Pete Brown, the club's vice president of player personnel.
Welcome to about 10 minutes of today's most powerful 21 minutes.
And, frankly, it's a major reason Lewis took this job and he doesn't understand why media pundits like Peter King and John Clayton don't get it. His path to the ultimate decision-maker is unimpeded. He has a direct line. There are no vice presidents of paper clips or directors of mayhem getting in his way to the top like there are at many other teams. **
9:50 a.m.:** Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson, off his break-through sophomore season, has called for his first conversation with his new head coach.
"No, don't call me Mr. Lewis," Lewis says. "Try Marvin or Coach or Mr. Dumb Ass, but not Mr. Lewis."
Johnson feels him out on the No. draft pick, but Lewis can only tell him, "We're going to take the best guy for the team."
Johnson sounds pumped up and tells Lewis he'll be here March 1, three weeks before the voluntary workouts start.
"We've got a minicamp April 11," Lewis says, "but Jon, Akili and the quarterbacks are coming in April 6 or 7 to get together and throw with the receivers."
10:05 a.m.: Brennan is shooting for a 1 p.m. news conference to announce 14 of the 15 assistant coaches (Lewis still has to meet up with the tight ends candidate to give the two-cent PBS tour he just got 10 days ago), so Lewis seeks out defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier for a quick sitdown. He finds him in an office watching tape with secondary coach Kevin Coyle and then realizes he has to be on Bill Maas' radio show in Kansas City in five minutes.
10:10 a.m.: Frazier, the former Eagles secondary coach, is less than 48 hours removed from Sunday's crushing loss to Tampa Bay in Sunday's NFC championship as he settles into a chair to listen to Lewis on radio. He's got the familiar lines down pat: "The toughest thing is splitting up the 24 hours. You have to be an administrator, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a proctologist. . ."
The second most disturbing image for Frazier: Lewis is asked about the Super Bowl: "Oakland has to keep running it or else Tampa is going to swarm them."
Lewis signs off and then lets Frazier know he isn't giving him this job to be defensive guru Marvin Lewis' puppet. He's going to be working at being a head coach and so this is Frazier's defense and he's calling the plays. **
10:50 am:** Lewis goes into the locker room to meet briefly with equipment manager Rob Recker. He wants to set up a time for a longer meeting, but he makes a couple of things clear right now as he walks through with his tight end coaching candidate.
What about putting stools in front of the lockers?" he asks. "Can you get me some specs and I'll work with you?"
When Recker mentions he'd like players paying a little more attention to keeping the place neat, Lewis says, "Absolutely. That's not your job. That's their job. The first time, we tell them. The second time, we take steps. That's going to change."
Lewis leaves behind a pretty happy equipment manager.
11:40 a.m.: Lewis is back in his office meeting with Eric Ball, the club's director of player development, the front office's link to the players. Lewis wants to know who are the five most high-maintenance players on and off the field, how he can help Ball get the players more involved in the community, and how he can get the alumni players to interact more with his team.
I think it's less than 40 percent of the teams in the NFL have been to multiple Super Bowls," Lewis says. "We should be proud that we're one of the teams that has done it. And I think that's a reflection of the players who were here and that they were successful after football. They know what it takes and if just one of those guys could be an aide to one of the younger guys, it would be a big help."
Ever since he got the job, Lewis has been saying he wants his guys to get out in the community as much as they can on their day offs. This leaves behind a very happy director of player development.
"It's a privilege to do what we do and a blessing to be able to give back," Lewis says. "I think being confident off the field ties into being confident on the field. It says something about you." **
12:45 pm.:** A week ago in Mobile, Ala., offensive line coach Paul Alexander sat down for his first interview with Lewis and it was pretty clear it didn't go well and both men knew that Alexander didn't want to stay unless he was convinced Lewis would bring some change.
Now they are sitting in Lewis' office, getting ready to go downstairs and announce that Alexander is the new assistant head coach. Alexander has seen a couple of staff changes that have pleased him and he gets the sense Lewis is going to run a tighter ship.
"He sold me," Alexander says.
He's been doing that a lot lately. As Lewis sees an employee who has gone above and beyond, he reaches into his desk drawer and pulls out a gift certificate.
1:45 p.m.: Lewis has bought the coaches' wing lunch from Izzy's and he's munching on a chicken salad sandwich as he goes through a stack of mail. He reminisces about the day his Ravens' defense struggled for a 34-31 win in Cincinnati late in the 1999 season. That next year, that unit would go on to set a NFL record for allowing the fewest points in a season and leading Baltimore to the Super Bowl.
"That probably was our last bad game," Lewis said. "I think that was the game they realized that it was all on them. Every play Cincinnati scored on, or converted a third-and-one, or third-and-two, we had worked on in practice. We knew it was coming and we didn't execute."
The mail is also being sorted into "Know," and "Don't Know," and Janette piles on with a sheet of 35 new phone messages. **
2:15 p.m.:** Lewis is from the Brian Billick Computer School, so a key figure this week has been Director of Technology Jo Ann Ralstin. She sets up Lewis laptop that is also tied in with his PDA, a hand-held miracle that contains E-mail, phone messages and just maybe some nuclear secrets.
Ralstin's project in the coming days is the Power Point computer system. Lewis wants his coaches trained in it and needs the offense and defense auditoriums outfitted with cables to allow Power Point presentations.
"It's a quicker and easier presentation than overlays with projectors," Lewis says. "And it's easier to file than using manila folders. With these guys so used to using computers and video games, it's what they're used to." **
3 p.m.** Lewis sits across a draft-room table from Mike and Pete Brown and it's an easy conversation. This is another reason Lewis took the job. He agrees with the Browns that coaches should have a big say in personnel.
"He's good at it and he has a passion for it," says Bills President Tom Donahoe, who worked with Lewis in Pittsburgh. "He likes to talk about players. "He likes to talk about the game. That's one of Marvin's strengths is that he's a good judge of talent and he can work with them to get them better on the field."
At some point, the Bengals are going to add scouts to the NFL's smallest personnel department, but at the moment Lewis' main concern is scheduling his coaches' scouting trips while giving them enough time to also work on football in the office.
The biggest difference now is that Lewis is going to schedule all the coaches' trips instead of each coach independently making their own schedules. That's how the Bengals used to end up at times with five coaches at a college workout. Now, no more than a position coach and a coordinator will be at one place.
"A lot of these guys have already worked out at the combine," Lewis says. "What's the value of going back and doing it again? A lot of people go just because somebody else goes. We're going to supplement our work by watching a lot of tape. You can get a lot more done watching tape here than going to one workout."
Lewis isn't looking at cutting back scouting. He's looking to centralize it and streamline it and give it some order. Asked if he can take on the added responsibility of making out everyone's schedule, he said, "Why not? In two weeks it's going to be done."
4:45 p.m.: Bengals director of business development Troy Blackburn takes Lewis on a tour of the administrative staff and Lewis makes sure he tells the ticket people, "We're going to make sure you have something to sell."
In one of the offices, a folding chair with the Bengals' tiger head logo on the seat catches Lewis' eye. Blackburn tells him it's a demo, but you can see Lewis' mind already working.
Locker-room stools with tiger heads?
5:30 p.m.: Lewis wants to take the remaining coaches to Montgomery Inn for dinner, but first he lets them get in a workout while he works the phones some more. They won't meet as a group until next Tuesday morning.
If anyone knows Lewis best, it's defensive line coach Jay Hayes. They are two years apart and grew up one town over on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. Their families have known each other for more than a century in Washington County, so it was fate that Hayes would one day be reunited with Lewis on an NFL staff.
Since Hayes can remember, Lewis was always leading. In junior high and high school, Marvin was always the quarterback. At church,. Hayes remembers Lewis being the superintendent.
"There were adults there, too, but they had a boy and a girl be in charge of gathering up all the kids for Sunday School and then dismissing everyone," Hayes says. "He might have done it for four, five years, I can't remember, but I can still see him up there."
6:30 p.m.: Lewis leads everyone to dinner. **
11:30 p.m.:** The superintendent has left the building, half an hour shy of a new day.