When Marvin Lewis became the defensive coordinator in Baltimore in 1996, he hired an up-and-coming defensive assistant named Jim Schwartz.
“It was Marvin’s first job as a defensive coordinator and I had moved over from scouting and into quality control,” Schwartz said. “The quality control guy’s sort of the right hand man of the coordinator. So I got a chance to learn every bit of the defense.
“Probably the biggest thing I learned was Marvin’s consistency – not a guy that gets high, not a guy that gets low. He’s got a work ethic that’s sort of part of that process. It’s a little bit different than some of the coaches I’ve been around. I think you’re seeing the results with the Bengals.”
Lewis, who’s been the head coach in Cincinnati since 2003, has led the Bengals to the playoffs in three of the last four years. He'll lead his first-place Bengals into Ford Field Sunday to play the first-place Lions.
In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Lewis referred to Schwartz as "Jimmy" a number of times.
"When you work together like we did you spend a lot of time together," Lewis said. "When you come from the bottom like we did you really grind together. You really are that close.
"I owe him a lot. He was a great coach with me and just tremendous. I’ve had the same administrative assistant here for going on 14 years and Jimmy hired her, 14, 15 years (ago). Everyone around me I owe it to Jimmy.”
Lewis said it was under the advice of long-time Baltimore executive Ozzie Newsome that he interview Schwartz for the job way back when.
"Ozzie Newsome recommended that I spend the time and interview Jimmy for the position and that he hoped that I would feel good about keeping Jimmy, because he thought he had a bright future and I conveyed the same thing to Jeff Fisher and Greg Williams when we got fired in Baltimore and Brian Billick wanted to hire my next defensive assistant, Mike Smith.
"Jimmy was out a job and so I did the same thing with Jeff and Greg in order to convince them to give Jimmy an opportunity to interview with them in Tennessee. And then later they thanked me."
Coaching is a fraternity and Schwartz said he’s never forgotten the coaches that helped him along the way.
"Nobody’s friends on Sunday, you know the way that goes, but he’s a good football coach," Schwartz said of Lewis. "He’s got a great family. My wife and I and our kids know their family really well, but none of that matters once you get to Sunday.
"He’s done a nice job with the Bengals though, they’ve been consistent over time. Marvin’s a real steady guy and I think you see that reflected in their team. Their team’s very steady."