They don’t see each other much anymore except at NFL functions and an occasional fall Sunday, but Lions coach Jim Schwartz and his Cincinnati Bengals counterpart, Marvin Lewis, remain close friends.
Schwartz spent three seasons working under Lewis as a quality-control assistant with the Baltimore Ravens in 1996-98, and Lewis said in a conference call Wednesday he owes a large part of his coaching career to the man he still calls “Jimmy.”
“Obviously, he means a lot to me,” Lewis said. “I owe him a lot. He was a great coach with me, just tremendous. I’ve had the same administrative assistant here for going on 14 years, and Jimmy hired her. Everywhere around me I owe it to Jimmy. He’s a good man and good coach, and I recognized that right away.”
Lewis, the Ravens defensive coordinator in 1996-2001, hired Schwartz on the recommendation of Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, who worked alongside Schwartz when the two were in Cleveland together.
Years later, after Ravens coach Brian Billick hired Mike Smith to replace Schwartz, Lewis recommended Schwartz for an interview with Jeff Fisher and Gregg Williams in Tennessee.
“He was bright, his work ethic, he understood football, he understood the ability to communicate with the players,” Lewis said. “He was a good on-the-field coach, he was a great off-the-field coach, he was a great tactical coach, and he was a detailed coach. So he had it all. And he’s been very successful.”
Schwartz will coach against Lewis for the first time since 2009 when the Lions host the Bengals in a battle of 4-2 teams Sunday at Ford Field.
He said their friendship will be on hold for a few hours — “Nobody’s a friend on Sunday, you know the way that goes,” Schwartz said — but their respect is mutual.
“Probably the biggest thing I learned (from Marvin) was just Marvin’s consistency,” Schwartz said. He’s “not a guy that gets high, not a guy that gets low. He’s got a work ethic that was sort of part of that process. It’s a little bit different than some other coaches that I’ve been around, but I think you’re seeing the results with the Bengals.”