Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and Raiders coach Jack Del Rio are friends, with several common interests.
More than professional coaching associates, the two men are actually buddies who stay in touch with each other with genuine mutual care for their respective families.
The caring will always be there for the two tough guys. But the talking part stopped, at least until after the season, when the 2015 schedule was released and showed that Del Rio's Oakland Raiders were going to host the Bengals Week 1. They play Sunday.
Why did the talking part stop?
"We’re really good friends, and our families are friends. We spend time together in the offseason. So, when the schedule came out, we quit talking," Lewis said with a laugh. "We will talk afterwards."
Even though he doesn't want to share any tidbits with his friend, it's evident that Lewis is fond of Del Rio.
“Jack’s been a coordinator in Denver for the last couple seasons. We played him when he was the head coach at Jacksonville in probably five of the nine years he was coach there," Lewis said. "But, you know, he does a fantastic job, and they’ve put together a really good football team (in Oakland), and it’s evident on tape.”
Lewis, a Pennsylvania native, and Del Rio, a Californian, wouldn't seem to have much in common. But football bridged their gaps, and personalities strengthened the ties that bind.
“When Jack was a player, he was a guy that I wanted Ray Lewis to emulate and learn from," said Lewis as he spoke about his early days as Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator. "I went to Ozzie (Newsome) in ’97 and said we should hire that guy as a player, and he ended up retiring. He’s the kind of guy you want."
Lewis also thinks highly of Del Rio as a coach. He's come to appreciate what the former player brings to the table on the sidelines as paths have crossed during their NFL journeys.
"I had the chance to be around him. We were coaching the Pro Bowl one year when I was with the Steelers, and I had a chance to observe him, and knew he was the kind of guy you’d like to have your young players emulate," Lewis said. "He did a fantastic job coaching the linebackers there in Baltimore. And, of course, moving on to Carolina, and so forth. And then, being the head coach at Jacksonville. He did a fabulous job in Denver for a few years.
"Everywhere he’s been, he’s been successful, and they’re going to be a well-coached team (on Sunday), we know that.”