Moving up with Marvin

When the 49ers were looking for a new head coach last winter, Marvin Lewis said he received "semi" interest from the Niners before signing with the Cincinnati Bengals to become their coach. "It wasn't substantial enough that I needed to worry about it," Lewis said of San Francisco's interest. "We were kind of too far along in the process here, and I was pretty much set in my mind that this is what I wanted to do."

Q: Is every game a must win for your team?

Lewis: We've had it probably for a few weeks now. I don't know that it has changed much in probably the last four weeks.

Q: Can you talk a little about your quarterback situation?

Lewis: We didn't draft a quarterback number one because we had any problem with anybody here. We drafted what we thought was the best football player for our team for the future. That is the approach that we took. So, it's really not anything different than I expected.

Q: Tell us then about your starter, Jon Kitna

Lewis: I've been pleased with Jon. As long as Jon doesn't try to make plays that score two touchdowns on one play. He's played great for us this year, but when he presses and tries to do too much, generally, bad things occur. So, he's been a productive player for us, and we just keep pushing and shoving, and hopefully get better and better.

Q: What did you see in him to stick with him after 0-3 start?

Lewis: Well, he wasn't really the biggest factor for us being 0-3. There are a lot of things that we can point to that we needed to do better. One was play quarterback at some points better, but there were a lot of other areas that we needed to get better in. So, too many times, too much blame goes to the quarterback.

Q: What was different about this 0-3 start to past starts?

Lewis: Well, I really think that I had to kind of guard our guys against that and that we were playing good football. We weren't making enough plays to win games when we had an opportunity, but we had to continue to keep doing things right. If we did that, we were going to be successful. Yeah, you know, that kind of gets to be an atmosphere of all the things that change. When you don't win, people do fall back into that. You think, here they go again. But, we were resilient enough, and I think thick-skinned enough to work through that.

Q: Any vindication of teams that passed on you before missed out on a great opportunity? Lewis: No, I don't have to worry about that. Passing is a two-way street sometimes, too. Things happen for a reason, and I was real comfortable with that. This has been a good opportunity for me, and one that I was very appreciative of and excited about, frankly. When other people approached me about different things, I sometimes wasn't as excited about things as people may have seemed. So, this has been great.

Q: Before signing with Bengals, did receive any interest from 49ers?

Lewis: Semi.

Q: Can you expand?

Lewis: No, I won't. Thank you.

Q: Was that a situation that interested you?

Lewis: I don't know. Again, it wasn't substantial enough that I needed to worry about it. We were kind of too far along in the process here, and I was pretty much set in my mind that this is what I wanted to do.

Q: How long was process in Cincinnati to get hired?

Lewis: From the time I was hired, it was probably two weeks. But really, I thought after the first week that things would progress the way I thought they would progress.

Q: What was attractive about Bengals job?

Lewis: I think the biggest thing was the opportunity. Number one, to have the role and responsibility, I thought was important for the head coach to have. The thought that I would be working with and dealing with Mike, I didn't have to go through a one, two or three person sounding board of things. It was basically that we would make decisions and discuss things, and I was really comfortable with that. Lastly, I thought in the worst way, he wanted to win. So, I had an owner that wanted to win, a stadium and city that wanted to win, and I was excited about that.

Q: Was there any attraction about how pathetic they've been over the years?

Lewis: I don't know about that. Having been in this position for 10 years myself, I kind of knew a lot about Cincinnati and the Bengals. I coached against them quite a few times. When you coached against them, you didn't feel that apathy. So, you knew you had to get ready to play just like you do every week.

Q: Is most pressure in this job self-inflicted?

Lewis: I don't know if it is self-inflicted. Obviously, the expectations have changed in a hurry. That is what you want. Our goal is to win a championship. There always is going to be self-inflicted pressure. My job is important because I've been in charge of getting these guys to move in the right direction.

Q: Is there a hurry for a turnaround?

Lewis: I don't know what I expected, but in lieu of our start, we've got some things ironed out. We're headed in the right direction. I think the number one thing is the hard work and all the hours and time that our players spent has turned and helped them turn the corner. They realize that, and that is the most important thing.

Q: What has the reaction been in the city to the team's performance and yourself?

Lewis: It's been great and very exciting. People, I would think, coming out of the closet now. They have their Bengals gear out, dusting it off, and that is a good thing. When we started the year, and this is a game (vs. 49ers) where I don't know anybody felt like it would get sold out. Even though we were playing a fine team in the 49ers, but it was a team from the West Coast, and we didn't know the attraction would be there. Obviously, our fans have stepped up and they are excited about seeing the team play. So, we have a sold-out stadium.

Q: Did you ever lose hope you would not get another NFL job? Were close to taking Cal job?

Lewis: Yes, I was. I didn't lose hope because I really had fine jobs. I came to realization that I wanted to coach in the NFL, and I had gone this far. Maybe my plight was to continue to be a defensive coordinator, and that would be great. I worked with good organizations and players, and I enjoyed those things. I didn't know when it was going to occur. I was patient with it, and believed things happen for a reason.

Q: Do you view yourself as flag-bearer for minority coaches?

Lewis: I hope I'm a flag-bearer for coaches, and minority coaches being part of it who have come through the right way. I've had a lot of good background and training. A lot of my initial start and my first introduction to the NFL, was there with Coach Walsh and the 49ers staff with all the great people and coaches he had there. There isn't a lot of people that have affected my background, and I hope they all take some pride in that because I have learned a lot from a lot of different people.

Q: With your hiring, will walls come down a little bit?

Lewis: I think the important thing is, that if you own a football team, you are going to want to put somebody in place that you feel very comfortable that is going to be the face and CEO of your company. What I would hope is we would have more and more of the owners to take the opportunity or get to know more of the minority coaches. The guys that are coordinators and that are very successful in their jobs. Not only the X's and O's part of their jobs, but dealing with the player part of the job because that is the most important of this job-the interaction daily with the players.

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