Marvin Lewis News Conference
December 30, 2015
Paul Brown Stadium
As you break down film (of Denver game), was there good as well as bad?
"We've got to make critical plays at critical moments. It's the key to success."
People have been talking about the mentality of the team and the energy ramping up as the playoffs get closer, but it seems like your team has been even keel throughout the season. Is that something you've been making sure is established since May?
"I think that obviously the public always has the opinion that you automatically go into the playoffs, like you pick up a piece of paper and say we're going to be in the Super Bowl. I think only the people involved know how difficult it is to earn your way into the playoffs, and then go from there. I started in the NFL during the Buffalo Bills' four-Super Bowl run, and we know how hard it is to earn your way into the Super Bowl, once, twice, three, and four times.
"All the things that have go your way … bounce right, play right, good things happen. The mindset our players have had since we began in April was earning our way back, and from there just keep building upon it time and time again. Every time we go out there on the field, it is a learning experience. It's part of your history. It's part of what you know. Guys grow; guys gain from it.
"When Andy (Dalton) was in basically his first year and where AJ (McCarron) is now in his first year playing and his second year with us, it's all a gainful experience for AJ right now, and the football team. When Andy was in that situation, I think the football team was trying to find its own legs. Now, they know the platform they're on and they just have to raise it around AJ, and let AJ do his thing and then continue to do their thing at the level they're doing it and raise their level. We're into January football now, where great players have to play great, and it's time to step up and time to dominate and it starts on Sunday. We can't take any steps back. We can't lose any more football games. That's just the way it is."
You play a division rival in Baltimore, they've won two division titles, Pittsburgh's won two division titles and you've won three in the last seven years. You've got to be proud of that.
"It's a credit to our players and the organization. The fact that they've ground these things out – we know how difficult they are. It just shows how difficult this division is, because I think within those seven years we've had two of the teams win the Super Bowl and two of them played in the Super Bowl.
"It tells you how difficult this division is year in and year out, let alone game in and game out. We know we're playing a football team that over the last eight games is 4-4. They didn't get off to the start they wanted, but they've had a number of injuries. They've played with different quarterbacks, but they keep finding a way to win football games and that's what we know going into this game. It's a division game. We know they're a very physical bunch up front - offensive line and defensive line – and extremely physical. The game has to be won up there."
How big is it for AJ to get another game under his belt and get some more snaps and see some more things?
"It's another great opportunity for him. To play on Monday night, and in that game where every play was critical, was great for him. One play doesn't win the game and one play doesn't lose the game, but every play had a lot of momentum riding on it."
The defenses he's played against are not vanilla looking. Pittsburgh gives you a lot of different looks. Denver obviously did. Baltimore will…
"He's played against guys who have a lot of experience in the league. It was an experienced group in Pittsburgh. Somewhat the group in San Francisco has a lot of experience - the guys out there playing. The coordinator there has experience. It's (Eric Mangini's) first year as a coordinator there, but Eric has been a coordinator before and was a head coach and understands. Last week, playing against Wade (Phillips) and that group. Now, this week with Dean Pees. He's played against some of the best coordinators, in my opinion, in the National Football League."
How satisfying is it in an adverse scenario like Baltimore, with all the injuries, that they continue to play hard? As a head coach, you have to have a lot of respect for the relationship a coach has with his players that way …
"Coach (John) Harbaugh, since he's taken over there, they play hard. They believe in him. He believes in them. They go out there and put it on the line each and every week. You stand on those sidelines of these games and see how physical these guys are. All those guys have got big arms, man. They're just like clones of each other. These are big people we are about to play."
(Jay) Gruden and (Mike) Zimmer are in the playoffs. It's probably no surprise to you…
"It's awesome. We converse a little bit week to week sometimes, by text. It's just great. You have to be so happy for both of them to earn their way in the playoffs their second season. Jay wins the division and Zimmer is playing to win the division, and that's awesome. I'm so happy for them and what they've been able to do. I'd love the opportunity to play one of them this year yet."
How often do you text them? How often do you talk to them?
"Not as much as some of our other coaches do. I'm not big into the phone stuff. I just check in and congratulate them. If I have a chance to watch them play, obviously I'm going to watch them play. If we're done early, or they're playing and we're not, or if they're on Thursday night or Monday night. It's just fun and I'm happy for them. They obviously both did such a great job here for us and the team, and they're still a part of this team. They're part of where this team is, and how it's gotten where it is."
Did you ever think you'd have a coaching tree named after you?
"I don't think I have a tree. Hopefully they learned one thing here that they think has been helpful."
What do you think they did learn?
"I have no idea. I'm not going to speculate. I'm not a very good speculator as you know (laughs).
When two coaches leave and have the success that they've had, what does that say about this place?
"Well, I just think it's how Mike (Brown) feels that the coaches are an extension of his family. He always has, and I knew that before I came here. How special they are to him, and his loyalty to people that way. We've been able to continue to develop our guys from within.
"Mike Zimmer and I go back to Weber State and Idaho State in the '80s. I meet Jay Gruden for the first time because of Jon (Gruden). I told Jon that I didn't even know he had a brother. The time that I spent with these guys, as we were talking about the opportunity here, just to go in the room for five or six hours, and it seemed like fifteen minutes, because we saw things the same way. They're both football junkies that way, and they are hard working. Very enterprising in that way. They both knew how to get their side of the ball to play at a high level, and obviously now as the head coach of the entire team."
Do you think that's kind of a rare thing now with ownership, and how they look at coaches?
"I think our people look at it differently, because they know if we have these chairs here, they're not just chairs, these are people. Emotion and everything that goes into this, and what it takes. That group in your meeting group, the players and so forth. The emotions and pressures that are on them. It's just not interchangeable like that. Every time you make a change, the ramifications of that change are down the line in personnel and everything like that. You are continually starting over, but we were able to continually build, and that's been big."
With respect to the family aspect, and you talked about how Mike Brown looks as coaches as family, you seem to have incorporated that philosophy with everything and how your guys handle winning and losing the right way...
"I think we've grown up enough, and guys accept responsibility when we don't win. It's not somebody else's fault. They all take credit for losing. Not making a play that changes a game, and feel bad that way. But collectively, understand that we have to learn from it and move forward. We can't sit there and pout. We have to lick our wounds, get our butt in gear, and get going for next week. This is a big football game for us. The attitude in how we approached today was awesome. To have the building filled up yesterday (an off day) says where we are. They know what's ahead."
What kind of message did it send when AJ (McCarron), right after the game, tells the guys he messed up and takes responsibility?
"I've said that from the beginning with him. I was a fly on the wall at Alabama, a couple years ago, for his pro day. But, I got a chance to see him interact with the other teams. Minnesota was one of them. I got a chance to watch him that way, and knowing how he's grown up there.
"Talking with coach (Nick) Saban, and the guys there that I know, he's got the right stuff. I got a chance to spend all last season standing with him when he was on PUP. I'm telling him the play, and he's telling me the quarterback's progression. Those are things I really felt good about it. Until we got him a chance to get out there in training camp, and he gets his first opportunity in a preseason game, and then he's got the bad sore rib and can't play. He's had a tough go to get to where he is. But you know what, he kept working at it, and it's not too big for him and he keeps handling it."