ORLANDO, Fla. - Highlights of Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis' interview at Tuesday's AFC coaches' breakfast with the national media at the NFL's annual league meeting:
Q: How important is it for you to get Andy (Dalton) locked up long term?
ML: It's something we hope we can do sooner than later because it's a big piece of our puzzle that is kind of holding out there nebulous right now. So we'd like to get it done where it makes sense for us and makes sense for him and we can preserve a small portion of the football team to go forward.
Q: What is it you see in him that he's absolutely the guy long term?
ML: Andy is being compared to a lot of players who didn't play for their first three years. What he's accomplished has been great .. We want to continue to grow with him. He's got all the work ethic and the dynamics of why we drafted him to begin with, so that hasn't changed. All he's done is made good on everything we thought he would. One player doesn't lose a playoff game…we feel like we have a great young player in Andy, we are hopeful we can get a deal done that works and Andy can put it behind him….
He can get back focusing on football. He doesn't have to go into the season and worry about this contract thing, every week someone is going to ask him a question and then it gets to there and then are you franchising — all those things that come into play later on. Let's get it behind us. Let's get something that works for everyone and enables us to keep tackles in front of you, receivers on the outside, guys on the other side of the football so it works for everybody.
Q: Do you think he gets that?
ML: I think he gets it. But at some point you got to push everyone else to get it. Hey, this is what's best for me long term so I am not maimed. If you can make this much money for this many years as opposed to this much for two years because you are maimed — and you see it. Look at the quarterbacks that keep changing teams and they are guys that got thrown in as young guys and weren't protected. There's one on the street right now. When you are not protected at that position as a young player you start seeing ghosts. We've been good to protect our young player at that spot time and time again so he can perform him job and prosper.
Q: You seem defensive about Andy
ML: I'm tired of answering questions about Andy that doesn't make any sense. Andy has done a fine job for us. We all want to be better. Once he does that all the rest will go away. He's being compared with Drew Brees, he's being compared with Rodgers, guys that didn't get the chance to play until later on. They sat and watched. We had to throw Andy right in right away and I think he's done a really good job and will continue to get better. Until he proves he won't. He's done for the most part what we've asked the quarterback to do and that's take care of the offense. We put a lot on our quarterback and take care of the ball. We are only as good as our last time out when we lost that game so everybody feels that way right now, unfortunately
Q: How do you replace Michael (Johnson)?
ML: We drafted Margus (Hunt) a year ago as part of that transition. And we'll have other guys that step up. Wallace Gilberry had a great year last year. Robert Geathers comes back from injury. We'll be fine.
Q: When you look at Margus, there aren't a lot of guys like that. Are there guys you can compare him to in gauging his progress?
ML: Last year (safety) George Iloka played almost every snap for us without playing for us as a rookie. I think they're the same transitional guys. They all jumped through the same hoops to get there and now they have an opportunity to do the best they can do. Margus got some experience we didn't expect him to get. All that is just great, no one is going to work harder at it than him. He just needs to continue to get time on task.
Q: Does he have to learn more than others because he's new to the game?
ML: It's a reactive game and he has to continue to have opportunities to react.
Q: Does it matter left or right end?
Q: What's it mean to you to be the second most tenured guy in this room (next to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick)?
ML: I guess it speaks to the profession. It's a difficult thing week in and week out. I've known that throughout out coaching,. You've got to have great respect for what everyone does. To be now second behind Bill and I guess fourth or fifth in the league in experience. I remember when I was a young. Now I'm no longer the young coach.
Q: How rare is Bengals president Mike Brown in this league?
ML: He comes from being fundamental and sound in things. It's because of his background learning from his father and those are the things week in and week out he wants to build upon. He doesn't get really high with the highs or real low with the lows. That's rare nowadays. Not many people have come up through football like he did. There are only a handful of those owners still left that came up through football.
Q: When you scout college players, how much do you monitor their social media?
ML: We have somebody who goes through that. Our guys are monitored every week when they're allowed to do it because there are certain periods we ask them to shut it down. Our team, from the inside out, has asked them to shut it down. It's not a big deal. What they do is they don't think who's going to be reading it when they tweet something. We just remind them who some of their followers could be and to make sure it's appropriate and don't re-tweet something stupid that somebody else says. I will tell you it's more important in college right now than it is for our guys. They think it's a cool thing in college. If you go to Alabama, or Missouri, or Tennessee, or where ever, and you're tweeting and you have these followers, it's the natural reaction of the fans. They think someone cares. No one here cares where you went, what you're eating. Can you imagine that with Chad (Johnson) in '04 when he began to be a good player?
Q: Your thoughts on the Wells report?
ML: It was appalling. It was embarrassing. And it was just a very unfortunate situation, embarrassing situation, I think, for any person to have to go through.
Q: How do you prevent what happened in the Wells report?
ML: Your players, first off. The thing I thought was interesting in that was Jake Long was never mentioned. Who interviewed Jake Long? When he was a Miami Dolphin he was in charge. So that didn't really go on to that extent. I think you have to have leadership in place throughout your team that understands what our focus here is to win football games. Our focus is if that is our starting tackle to have him feel as good about himself as he can feel each and every day because that is a big, strong man that has to go and block big, strong men. So we certainly don't want to tear him down and expect him to go out and battle with us on Sunday. This doesn't work. You can't belittle him and expect him to do things he does.
Q: Are you for a command center in replay?
ML: I am. I think it's something officiating feels really good about… it gives the opportunity to maybe correct four or five times a year something that maybe happens, maybe the replay official doesn't capture and they are able to give their input and say, hey, look at this. We feel like it will speed up the process that by the time the official comes, because we still have to go by the sideline and do what we are doing because of the location of where our units are on the field maybe in future time we can speed up the system a little better where they don't have to get all the way there they can get maybe right to the boundary. We think it will be able to speed up our process and it will get better, our process was better last year. We continue to cut time out of that process.
Q: Will it be just as fast?
ML: I hope so. The game has gotten a little long. We have done everything we can to continually shorten the game.
Q: What do you like about your new backup tackle, former Packer Marshall Newhouse?
ML: We like his versatility, we like that he's a young guy still emerging. He has that great experience. He played on a great football team in Green Bay and won a lot of football games, so all those qualities. He's Andy Dalton's best friend. There's a lot there. We got him there now. It doesn't limit us going forward in the draft as well. We have covered ourself to replace (Anthony Collins).
Q: How important is the swing tackle job?
ML: It's really important. You have to have flexibility up front in the offensive line and good, young talent. We brought Mike Pollak in last year to do that on the inside because we had AC on the inside. Now we've kind of got that going again. You have to have some depth there. It's a position they do good because they play together. We are really looking at him as one of our guys. He may not open up the first game as the starting tackle but I hope what he feels like is he's one of the starters. You got to have guys who go about their job and prepare as if they are starting every week. I think he's conscientious like that.