INDIANAPOLIS – Transcript of Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis's national news conference at the NFL scouting combine on Friday:
Q: Can you tell us about Kevin Coyle (former Bengals DB coach now Dolphins D-coordinator)?
ML: I've known Kevin since about '93 or '94 when I was coaching the Steelers and Kevin was one of those guys that would come in the morning to watch tape visiting when he was at Maryland or Holy Cross, I can't remember, but you told him to turn out the lights when he left. He's been a diligent football coach and a very detailed guy. He's getting an opportunity now to become a coordinator. He's been a coordinator a long time in college. I think he'll do a fine job.
Q: Do you look at the division with your young quarterback and wide receiver and feel like you can make a move there? Especially with some of the turnover the Steelers and Ravens are going through?
ML: I think every year I know how tough our division is going to be. That's the way it is. I've been in this division 20 years. All but one (of 21 NFL seasons). I know this division and how physical it's going to be week in and week out. I can't worry about what they're doing, but it's most important we continue to improve and puts guys in place to make critical football plays.
Q: Rookie quarterbacks won more games than ever last year. Why?
ML: One of the things is a lot of these players through their college careers have played a lot more football. They've thrown and passed the ball more often. They've been in offenses that lend themselves to spread formations, the single-back sets that are very similar things that they have to do in critical situations here and you're critical third downs and one-minute situations. They're being coached on protections. I think a lot of our schematics have filtered down into the college game. They've seen a lot of these looks defensively. Obviously they're seeing players here that are bigger, faster, stronger, yet they are seeing some of these looks defensively. And in our case I know our offensive coaches did a fine job in helping our guy.
Q: What kind of an impact will having an offseason have on Andy Dalton?
ML: I think it's going to be a huge thing for Andy to have. Not only the offseason, but a resume of work. Something he can improve upon and build upon with the rest of our players. He spoke so much about that. That he can't wait to get the opportunity to get back to work and to be able to look at the different concepts and the things we do offensively. We need to continue to build on this and get better at this, and so forth. I think it was a great experience for our young guys to have the opportunity to learn from these veteran players (at the Pro Bowl). I just told them, 'Suck the knowledge out of them and come back.' I think that's important.
Q: What especially impressed you about (Dalton)?
ML: I think all along just his demeanor. As a couple people said to me, 'He has it.' You felt that about him. Nothing seemed too big. He seems to take almost everything in stride. His personality is one that's very unassuming yet a very quiet demeanor, quiet determination and a resolve that he can do whatever it is.
Q: Knowing (former Bengals offensive coordinator) Bob Bratkowski as you do, what do you envision him bringing to a situation with a young franchise quarterback (at Jacksonville)?
ML: He's been in that situation a few times. He was obviously in that situation in Cincinnati with a couple of different players. He goes to Atlanta and inherits a very good player in Matt Ryan, so he's got both perspectives on it now. That really helps. He saw the development that Carson (Palmer) went through and I think it will be a great opportunity for him to impart that kind of knowledge between he and Mike Mularkey on Blaine Gabbert and develop him. I think he'll have a good feel what is important for a young quarterback.
Q: A year ago you guys had a lot of needs. Why did you not feel the pressure to move up and get a quarterback?
ML: We had a lot of needs, so we felt like we needed to gain some players at other positions as well.
Q: So at no point did you consider to reach:
ML: We considered.
Q: The Bengals have had a lot of problems over the years with run-ins with the law. Are you doing anything differently to help them?
ML: If you look at the history of teams, there's been a lot of problems, unfortunately, for a lot of our guys, and Jerome (Simpson)'s situation is an unfortunate one. Particularly at a time he's a free-agent player. Guys time and time again have to make good choices. What they do is reflective of the player himself, the team, the organization and, frankly, professional athletes, and they're looked upon by young people, so it's important they make good choices.
Q: How much does height matter to you when you're evaluating a quarterback?
ML: Height is important. Honestly, the guys up in front of them aren't getting shorter and I think some guys can move and have the innate ability for passing and the openings in that pocket and they have a pocket presence and an ability to slide and find those openings.
Q: What is the appeal of bringing Hue Jackson on your staff in an area he hasn't coached before?
ML: No. 1 he's an excellent, excellent football coach. One that is very, very organized. Very,very detailed. Very demanding on the players. That's No. 1. We were looking for a guy that could continue to assist our special teams coach. We'd like to have detailed coaching in the room on that. He has that command and the presence in the room. Some of your special teams, particularly in the return game, are blocks and schematics concepts like an offensive play, and Hue's able to bring that perspective to help and go out and evaluate the return prospects. And he's got the unique ability of being an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, to bring that defensive perspective as we break down opponents with (defensive coordinator) Mike Zimmer. Mike was excited about the fact that … 'This is the protection. This is the determiner. This is the adjustment.' So as we put together our plan, we get another analysis of what we feel like the opponent is doing.
Q: Do you expect to see Hue as a head coach again?
ML: I hope he gets an opportunity. He did a fine job and situations change.
Q: You feel like this is your most experienced staff now?
ML: I don't know. I don't think about that. One of the uneasy spots about being a head coach is about your staff. Everybody wants an opportunity to move on and up. You like things to roll things the way they are. We felt good in the changes we made last year. Mark Carrier has great knowledge and gets to go back and coach something he is well versed in. The experience and knowledge will be great for us. Hue's perspective having been a head coach and coordinator, he knows our division and the AFC West.
Q: Concern about (Rey) Maualuga?
ML: There's a concern. What he does away from football is important. He has to make good choices and decisions. I'm not going to speak any further because it's a lot more involved than any of you would understand.
Q: Chris Crocker's status?
ML: He has been a great guy that we acquired off the waiver wire (in 2008) and got us out of a jam. He's been a great leader for our team. You talk about biting the bullet with the pain he had in his knee. He's had the clean out of the knee since the season is over and see what happens.
Q: How do you feel about your safeties?
ML: We have two great prospects. We traded for Taylor Mays last year and drafted Robert Sands who didn't play any defensive snaps. I feel great about them because I watched them each and every day in practice. We feel real good about those young guys and prepared to move forward about where it will stand out.
Q: Trent Richardson's knee injury and where his draft status might be?
ML: No, I can't. He's a good player and it's not my place to pontificate on his draft status.
Q: How much of a priority is it to re-sign Cedric Benson?
ML: I think we want to improve our running game and if it includes Ced, it includes Ced. We need to have more explosive running plays. Ced has had a fine career. He's a physical player and been a big part of our success.
Q: Size of quarterbacks important?
ML: People thought Drew Brees was too short and they're not saying that now.
Q: With what you guys accomplished do you feel good about where you are?
ML: A coach always worries and then he feels good. I feel excited and at some point we're going to be doing football. We have a good opportunity ahead of us. We have two first-round picks and that's important. They have to share the passion to play and we'll probably have an opportunity for them to play right away.
Q: Feel like you're closing the gap in the division?
ML: We won the division three years ago and it's not worth anything. We have to compete and win against our division teams. We know Cleveland, Baltimore and Pittsburgh get better every year.
Q: How much progress are you expecting from Gresham?
ML: Jermaine is one of our young players for having an offseason for the first time will help him. I think going to the Pro Bowl benefited him. I've told our guys last year we taught him what and this year we're going to be concerned about teaching them how.
Lewis's transcript from Friday's sitdown with the Cincinnati media:
Q: How dramatic of a step can you take?
ML: That's our challenge, take as big a step as we can and that's the challenge for us as coaches.
Q: The steps you made this past season, what's your motto for this year?
ML: Yeah, but we're going to keep that between me and me. We have to have the same diligence and resolve and work ethic and not forget where we got and not back up on it. The leadership of the team understands that. It's not a sigh of relief but a reaffirmation to affirm what is important.
Q: Is that different than the past?
ML: It gives us an opportunity to move beyond some other things. We've got guys who like a Carlos Dunlap who know how disappointed he was in his season. You've got Gresham and A.J. who scratched the surface. You've got Bernard Scott who is dying for an opportunity to play fulltime. You've got a Chris Pressley who got to be a starting player. You've got a Peko who is telling them how it works. You've got a Maualuga who wants to be looked at as a good player. Leon Hall, who has to train like a villain to get back.
Q: No banquet circuit?
ML: There aren't any banquet circuits. They're not going to beat their chests. We sucked then, we sucked now and we have to move out of that.
Q: Because of that youth, better safeguard against 4-12 in 2010?
ML: Every team that gets in this situation you think 'you're this person away' you fall into that trap. We know this isn't a this person league, it's an us league.
Q: More of an us team now?
ML: I said a year ago I had a chance to start fresh in a new job in the same office. Start from scratch. You know what you know, you look upon it and get excited. We had a small degree of success."
Q: Do you envision being aggressive in free agency?
ML: We have only 42 players under contract. Whether it is our players or positions where we are thin. Put guys back in place or assumptions that we're moving on to the younger guys.
Q: Envision a Sands or Mays playing more?
ML: Through competition, we'll see. Reggie (Nelson) is a free agent player, we would like to have him back but we'll see. We're prepared to go either way. We covered that spot last season and didn't have to dip into the reserve tank at any point where we were fortunate. We had a taste of Taylor Mays and we were impressed with what we saw. Jeromy Miles got a chance of having a little bit of a role and we feel pretty good about where we are.
Q: Flexbility of two first-round picks:
ML: We're going to pick a guy who has a chance to contribute. He probably won't be a quarterback. Any other position are in those sites.
Q: Don't have to reach at 17 or 21:
ML: Hopefully in eight weeks I'll have an idea of who 1-25 on our board are going to be.
Q: How good of a position to be at 21 as far as (trading)?
ML: When there's a player someone feels good for that they move up. If it's not clear cut for us we'll listen. It depends. A few years ago when people wanted us to trade out of the spot we got Jermaine. We knew there were tight ends that were going to be productive but we liked him and Gronkowski.
Q: You've done well taking corners in the first round. Is that where the crème de la crème is taken?
ML: Yes. There's research that says the best starting corners are first-round picks. Year after year if you had 70 corners the best ones are going to be first-round guys.
Q: Opposite of guards?
ML: They're like linebackers. They are sprinkled throughout. Generally those guys who catch and pass the ball go higher.
Q: Given what's happened to you guys in free agency with receivers, would you prefer to draft one?
ML: We made an investment in one (Antonio Bryant) who didn't work out because of injury. But it had nothing to do with the process, it had nothing to do with him. A mistake was made.
But Laveranues Coles, we went undefeated in the division and he cleaned up a situation that was volatile. And he was a great leader on our football team. He was a very productive leader. He made big catches in big games and big blocks in big games that sprung Cedric for a number of touchdown runs. Did he play for us next year? No we felt like we had to get better. But yet he gave us everything he had and we knew he was at the back end. But we were in a situation we wanted to find another guy that would help stabilize the meeting room. Stabilize the offense and help other players get better and he did that. Outside of my area people discount that too much. But that's how football teams win year after year after year.
Q: How much would bringing in a vet help a young receiver group?
ML: I don't know, I think we're beyond that. The guy we picked last year … he has such uniqueness to him, his personality, I don't feel that at all. I don't feel that pressure. And I told our coaches that. I don't feel the urgency of that like I did then.
Q: So you feel it's a mature room:
ML: I think it's a better-put-together room even with the youth. I think it's a more professional room even with the youth. I think we have an outstanding coach in James Urban that has coached enough other things and has a great rapport. ... He's the mature guy in the room and that's helpful.
Q: Not dying for a veteran?
ML: No, because James has constructed the room that way. He has been able to empower them because we started from scratch with his ways and Jay's ways. They were able to get in step as if James and Jay were the players.
Q: How is Leon's recovery?
ML: An Achilles injury for a cornerback. Its not like if you played left guard. And he knows that. He has been very, very diligent. He's working, working, working. He's ahead of where they probably thought he would be at this point. It will remain to be seen until we get into July and opening up training camp of exactly where Leon is. There is still a lot of ground to be covered.
Q: What is Bobbie (Williams)'s status?
ML: Bobbie was injured at the end (broken ankle). He required surgery. His contract is up. I'm not as up-to-date on Bobbie. I know surgery went well. It wasn't a major thing.
Q: Shipley is at six months (for an ACL):
ML: So far, so good. Every time he reports to Cincinnati there has been significant progress. He comes in every couple of weeks (from Texas). Another guy with great opportunity to grow through having an offseason. These guys didn't get to do football. Now we get a chance to do some football.
Q: What about the UC running back (Isaiah Pead)?
ML: I think he's a really good prospect. I haven't watched tape of him yet. It's only TV scouting. I think he showed a different dimension with the punt returning he did at Senior Bowl and I think that will do nothing but elevate his stock. He's a great prospect. I haven't met him and I don't think he's on our list here (to interview) because we'll be able to spend enough time with him back at home.
Q: Do you envision you guys tagging anyone?
ML: Possibly. They haven't given anyone the tags yet.
Q: Have you reached out to any of your big name (free agents)?
ML: Some of their agents have been contacted. I think some of the agents were talked to in the fall. I think that's the process you're in now. We've got a couple of weeks still away. Three weeks before that period starts. Hopefully some things can get hammered out.
Q: The agents were saying today there's not the urgency of combines past with free agency moved back a week:
ML: There's no (salary cap) numbers out. No one knows what the cap numbers are or the other (franchise) numbers. Everybody is working on speculation. And the fact the bonanza has not worked for anybody.
Q: In general, do you feel better about this team than a year ago?
ML: I felt good about the team a year ago because I knew we would do the things we needed to do to get to back where we wanted to go.
Q: You didn't have a quarterback:
ML: I was confident we would take care of that. I know who those pillars are now and I feel good about that.
Q: Who are they?
ML: We know who the quarterback is. We've obviously moved forward at wide receiver. We know the pillars of the offensive line and what they did for us, the pillars of the defensive line and what they did for us. We moved Rey and brought in Thomas Howard. We went and got Taylor Mays. We drafted Sands. We got Nate (Clements). We got some other guys we did on one-years who we'll be OK with. We saw the (Jon) Fanenes and the (Frostee) Ruckers come forward again and do what we expected out of them. We saw what Geno Atkins did. Kyle Cook continues to have another fine season.
Q: Andre Smith?
ML: And, you know what, Andre. At this point last year he was kind of nebulous. I see better than I hear. I was hearing things. I was hearing what he wants to tell me but I've got to see it. Just like Gresham and other guys I've talked about, he's probably the guy I should talk about. Him more than anybody about his future and about how excited he is for the opportunity because he wants to be a guy that comes on as a Pro Bowl player.
Q: How much of a Quantam Leap did he make?
ML: A huge leap. He made a transition mentally to being a pro. He became the guy we hoped we drafted and maybe he wasn't going to show those signs in year one, but we hoped he wasn't hurt and could show them in year two. OK, it took till year three, but he did it and that's what's key.
Q: Reaction to Jay Gruden not even interviewing elsewhere:
ML: It didn't really surprise me because there were a number of other things that you guys have no idea about that came across. He's just not interested both personally and for his family at this point. A year from now it might be a different story. Only the guy inside knows that. That's been the first thing since my very first conversation with Jay about the sincerity and humility of the man, which is refreshing.
I think it's a great lesson. From the time I talked to Jon (Gruden) about him, he said Jay is ready to move on from Orlando. Because he has passed up many opportunities before because he didn't feel he was ready to uproot his family and that's important. We as coaches now we have a different lifestyle, but I think that's something that's very important to him and he stood for it.
Q: Jim McNally as consultant?
ML: That really doesn't need to be talked about. It's great. It'll give us – me – a different perspective on things. I think he can be a benefit to us. He's got a perspective of things that can be helpful. "I like this, have you ever thought of that?" It's another sounding board. It's a different perspective. I know Jay is excited about it. There are going to be some other things we're going to do with some people. We want to keep moving forward offensively and make sure we are leaving no stones unturned.
Q: Tackle Anthony Collins as a potential guard?
ML: Anthony was not keen when we tried to use him at guard. He didn't quite understand it. He's a free agent. We have to see what happens on that. He has a good value for us. He's still a good young prospect. It's just a matter of how things work out for him and us. We'll see.
Q: Your guard situation?
ML: I feel good about it. We have some guys in the bank and last year we didn't know who those guys were. Otis Hudson had an outstanding training camp for us before he got injured. We drafted Clint (Boling). He started for us. We solidified the center with Kyle Cook. We're in no situation where we're having to panic and do this. Nate (Livings) is a free agent. We have an opportunity to get Nate back. We brought in (Mike) McGlynn who filled a void between center and guard. I think we're in pretty good shape.
Q: Second time in three years going into last year of your contract. You said two years ago there had to be changes. Where do things stand?
ML: I think we made those changes and I think it's reflective on where we were last season. We made the revisions of things I thought were important. I think Mike (Brown) agreed on those things, that those things were important. He said it that day in the press conference downstairs. I think we've moved forward on a lot of that stuff. We agree on that kind of vision. I think that's important.
As far as my contract, yes, it's been talked about. But we have not come to any agreement. We'll hopefully get something worked out here. It's more my fault because I don't ever like to talk about it. It's not something that I'm comfortable talking about with anybody, frankly. I'm not. it's just not my nature. I didn't get into coaching that way. I took jobs without knowing what I was going to make, at times. You've got to learn once.
Q: Would it be better if it doesn't go until the end of season?
ML: I don't know that. I don't know that it has an effect. I laughed when people said before 'lame duck.' It's not lame duck … it was the best I ever felt. You know what I mean? It is important. I know how (Mike Brown) feels. He would like to get my contract extended. He's told me that two or three times. He'd like to get this worked out. We'd like to continue moving forward. We have to have the time and the opportunity to do it. I was gone and we had different things we were done. Hopefully we'll get it resolved.
Q: Would you like to finish your coaching career as coach of Bengals?
ML: I wouldn't mind that at all. I'm not going to coach until I'm 80 years old, so I wouldn't mind that at all. I enjoy what I do. I enjoy where we live. I enjoy the people I work with day in and day out. I think we continue to move in the right direction. I think there's a great commitment to winning and that I appreciate. Every time we have a player walk into the building, they feel good about where things are. that's what's good.
That's the thing I don't think enough people around Cincinnati get an appreciation for – how that man (Brown) wants to win. We're united in that.
Q: You'll pass Denny Green at the end of the season as the African-American head coach with longest tenure with one team. Does it mean something to you?
ML: It means a great deal because we know what kind of coach Denny Green was and the success he was in Minnesota and taking them to the championship game there a couple times. That's frankly where I'm disappointed. I haven't gotten us to the championship game. We've won the division twice but we haven't won a playoff game. I was hoping we could get beyond that this year and have the opportunity to keep going.
We went down there to an atmosphere in Houston that our fans need to understand this is what it's all about. That atmosphere we witnessed in Houston, our fans have to understand: this is why you come out to a national football league game. This is what it's supposed to sound like and feel like. The energy that was in the stadium that day is what we have to get recreated at Paul Brown Stadium each and every Sunday. That's why you come out to the games. You can't feel that at home. You have to come out and see that. With the young players and the opportunity we have, it's great to get out there and feel that. We've got to do everything in our power to create that atmosphere.
Having training camp at home helps us create that vibe for people. Taking nothing away from Georgetown. but they don't have to travel an hour and half or two hours south in order to watch us practice. They can watch us whether it be on grass fields or stadium, they can come out and be a part of what we're doing. I think that's going to be great for young kids, and it's going to be a great opportunity to build it back up again and get it to where it was.
Q: Is this most important offseason for fans to be aggressive in free agency?
ML: For whatever reason people beat us up. Aggressive free agency, tell me what aggressive free agency the Pittsburgh Steelers or Baltimore Ravens have had? Yet Pittsburgh has been in how many Super Bowls in the same time frame? You win by developing your own players and not overpaying for a guy you're not sure how he's going to work out until six, eight, 10 games down the road and maybe not then.
That's what's been proven. There have been very few guys that have done that and it's worked out to be productive. I believe we have to continue to draft. Do we need to supplement that with players? Yeah, and we're going to try to do that. but what does aggressive mean? Aggressive doesn't mean overpay and get stuck with both a bad contract and an average player. It doesn't fit what we want to do. To me, that's what's hard for the fans to understand. We need to have a guy who fits what we want to do. We want a guy who wants to practice 16 weeks, wants to be part of the team that's winning. That's got to be important or else it doesn't work. It doesn't work for us as a football team because they stand out like a sore thumb.
Q: What about Armon Binns?
ML: I think Armon made great strides. He's another guy we're not talking about. Our offensive coaches at the end of the year wanted to put him in the game. Not only can we dress him, but can we start him? There's another player that we identified last year during the draft, after the draft, said this guy is a good prospect. Then just getting him to our place as we did and then training him throughout the season to get him to run routes and get his arms inside and not have his arms out here, and all those things James Urban and all those guys spent 10 minutes with him on the field every day after practice. That's exciting.
Q: Were you tempted to start him?
ML: No because I didn't have a spot. But that's the kind of thing they push to do. We're not afraid to play young players. Those guys have made a transition to not be afraid to do that if he can hold up and do it.