Influence and ideas

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Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has taken some cues from Marvin Lewis in Minnesota.

A few leftovers from the NFL owners' annual meeting earlier this week in Boca Raton, Fla., a veritable stew of owners, coaches, and general managers.

 -The coaches' annual media breakfasts turned out to be a look at just how much influence Marvin Lewis exerts in coaching circles as he heads into his 14th season as Bengals head coach.

 Just look at two of the rookie head coaches. The Browns' Hue Jackson, who worked with Lewis in Cincinnati for seven seasons and four jobs, had the table next to the Bengals and when the last question had been asked he approached Lewis with a fake microphone in his hand and said, "Taught me everything I know.'"

Asked if he had a good Marvin Lewis story, Tampa Bay's Dirk Koetter laughed and said he had plenty but some not fit for the table.

 "I'll give you a good Marvin Lewis story," he said finally and, why not?

They were roommates at Idaho State, Lewis introduced him to his wife, and the Koetters chose Lewis' daughter Whitney to be their flower girl at their wedding.

Koetter's father, a legendary Idaho high school coach, kept a cottage in Montana and while they were in college the boys used it for a get-together and raft trip. Lewis was in charge of getting one of the cars down river for the end of the trip, but when they arrived he had left the keys upriver.

"Marvin the outdoorsman not as good as Marvin the coach," Koetter said.

But Lewis the coach is plenty good for Koetter and his friend has helped give him a pretty good idea of what to expect in this first season.

"He's been a great role model for me. He's not just one of the best coaches I've been around, but one of the best people," Koetter said. "He's the ultimate professional. Marvin knows everybody in the league. Everybody has a lot of respect for Marvin. I've talked to him down through the years about a lot of things and he's always given me a straight answer."

And then there are Lewis' two old coordinators who made it to the postseason for the first time as head coaches in Minnesota's Mike Zimmer and Washington's Jay Gruden.

Gruden talked about how he admired Lewis' day-to-day consistency when it came to dealing with players.

"That's important that they know what they're going to get from their head coach," Gruden said. "They can count on him to always get them ready to play."

You can also see traces of Lewis on and off the field in Minnesota.

After consulting with Bengals business manager Bill Connelly, Zimmer fashioned the Vikings' team meeting room after what Lewis has in Cincinnati. Like Lewis, he has also displayed framed pictures of conference players of the week and month, as well as a picture from each victory on walls in the team space.

He's also modeled the new Mike Zimmer Foundation after the Marvin Lewis Community Fund. In honor of Zimmer's late wife Vikki, the family effort is designed to help the youth of Minnesota with football camps and a grades incentive program in area high schools.  Zimmer also wanted to integrate the concept of a scholarship program that helps fund high school seniors' college educations.

MLCF handed out the first Vikki Zimmer Scholarship five years ago when Zimmer was still in Cincinnati and the Zimmers want to keep it going in Minnesota. Their daughter, Corrie, is running the foundation and the next step is to plan the Mike Zimmer Golf Classic to raise money.

So Lindsay Reisert, the assistant director of MLCF who runs the Marvin Lewis Golf Classic, has helped with the game plans. From tees to taxes.

"Corrie has been talking pretty much every day to Lindsay on the phone. We're running out of time for (the golf tournament), but we're trying," Zimmer said.  "When these guys hired me here I said I wanted to do what Marvin did in the community."

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Tyler Eifert made this catch against Cleveland, but what about that TD in Baltimore?

 _It would be nice if Lewis had that much influence when it came to the catch rule. Lewis, a member of the league's competition committee, seems to be the only guy who knows what it is.

"Very clear," Lewis said. "You go to the ground within the process of making the catch; you get up and hand the ball to the official without it touching the ground. Now you've caught the ball."

OK. Lewis and Dean Blandino, the league's vice president of officiating, seem to know. Blandino said it's clear enough that the rule didn't have to be re-written or tweaked.

"Control, plus two feet, plus time," Blandino said. "If I don't have that while upright and I'm going to the ground, then the standard becomes hold on to the ball when you land and we're not worried about feet, we're not worried about a knee. It's hold on to the ball when you land and so if he's not a runner before going to the ground, then the requirement becomes, again, survive the ground. Here it's easy. He maintains control, no issues. Again, consistency in officiating. The official sees the player go to the ground; the ball comes out, incomplete. If you watch that at full speed, we can be more consistent with that standard.

"Now if you want to say we're going to count feet, now the official goes one, two, it becomes a harder call and some of these would be ruled catches, some would be ruled incomplete. So again, if you're not a runner prior to going to the ground, in the process of making that catch you must maintain control when you land. So that's catch, no catch. The committee is not recommending a change to the rule, there won't be a tweak to the language."

But that doesn't explain why Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert had a TD taken away in Baltimore via fumble when he seemed to hold it long enough before stretching it out and reaching the goal line.

Right?

"It's the reach or that act of stretching the football [that] doesn't trump those three things we talked about: control, two feet plus time," Blandino said.  "If that reach occurs prior to those three being completed it still doesn't equate to possession."

All of which has Bengals president Mike Brown perplexed. He said he didn't sit in a meeting this week where it was discussed. Neither did club vice presidents Katie and Troy Blackburn. They're not sure what a catch is. But they think Eifert scored in Baltimore.

"Yeah, but if you ask the people in Baltimore they probably say oh, no," Brown said. "A catch is when the official says it is. That's about where it has gotten to. I used to think I knew, but I have to admit anymore I wait and get told. Do I prefer that? Probably not. I think that's the way it is. The officiating people seem to be satisfied with where they are. They know."

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*                          Mike Brown offered some reason this week.*

-As the league jumps from one complicated issue to the next, Brown's seven-decade affiliation with the NFL seems to have left him with some calm pragmatism that is in short supply at times.

 Here is his take on the NFL Player Association's battle with the NFL on commissioner Roger Goodell's right to discipline.

 "It is a sore spot with some teams. It is a sore spot probably with the NFLPA. I observe what goes on and sometimes I agree with it and sometimes I don't," Brown said. "And yet somebody has to do this. Would I, if I were doing it, in some cases go about it differently? Probably. But it is hard to perfect this.  It was, in the old days, less within the jurisdiction of the commissioner than it was the teams . . . And that, too, created problems.

 "And then you have just the extent of the sanctions. They've grown to be pretty severe. I would probably see them as at times overly severe. But someone has to make that call." 

 Brown voted for the one-year rule to eject players with two unsportsmanlike conduct calls in the same game. But he knows what he sees can be different when it comes to your stripes.

 "You get some of these peculiar situations that aren't just black and white. But there are some that are so obvious that I think that further sanctions will reduce future occurrences," Brown said. "But I have always kept in mind that what is an offense to somebody is the opposite to somebody else and it frequently revolves around whether it's your team or the other guy's team. That's just human nature."

Remember when the NFL passed instant replay at one of these meetings 21 years ago? Brown said then he was worried about a Pandora's Box and voted against it. He worried about the flow of the game slowing down and trying the patience of fans forced to watch three-hour plus games. He wondered if rules would become more complicated. And instead of scoring plays getting reviewed, would it expand into other areas? Maybe all plays?

Well, look at it now. And you can start with the catch. This week the league tabled resolutions to expand instant replay and every play looks in play. It is expected to be voted on in the spring but, like he has ever since, Brown won't vote for it.

"The coaches have seemingly a natural instinct to want to increase replays to make the game perfectable, to solve all injustices, and I'm just not inclined that way," Brown said. "I would be content if instant replay were not even in the game. It doesn't always give you the right answer. It delays the game. It creates a different form of controversy. It's, in some ways, are often an imposition on the people sitting in the stands when all this goes on."

Brown thought it would be used to merely overturn obvious injustices. Just scoring plays. "Now it's for 'Oh, he moved, or he twitched, or whatever.' Under one of the rules that would be now within the jurisdiction of replay," Brown said. "A coach can ask for a replay on any play. And it is not my inclination to expand instant replay. Rather, I would prefer, it were contracted, reduced."

 - Giants owner John Mara has interesting perspective as a member of the competition committee. He's on there with Lewis and Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, guys that have gone up against each other in two extremely volatile games.

 "They get along great. You would never know the rivalry between the teams is like that. Their relationship is great," Mara said. "I think those two coaches will get (the rivalry) under control. You've got two of the best coaches in that league. I think they're both a little embarrassed by what happened. I think they'll get it under control."

 -The Bengals' immediate plan looks pretty clear. Finish off negotiations with veteran wide receiver Brandon LaFell and veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby in the next week or so and head into the draft.

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