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Cutting Through the Chuckles: Breaking down Marvin Lewis's weekly press conference

Let's take the mass of meaningless words spoken by Marvin Lewis on a weekly basis and make them into something.

Chuckles is back, saying nothing again. Or is he?
Chuckles is back, saying nothing again. Or is he?
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Typically, when a person holds a press conference, it is for them to convey some sort of point or inform the audience of something of importance. In the NFL, coaches are forced to talk to the media following games, practices, injuries, when they buy a new grill from Lowe's instead of that decent looking one on Craigslist, and many other topics.

The thing is, coaches don't want to tell the media or fans much of anything. They are asked poorly worded questions or phrases that aren't even really questions at all. The media (ourselves included) believe we need the information possessed by coaches, and the coaches believe we need it about as badly as we need the President's nuclear launch codes. Occasionally, an actual answer to a question will be given. 99.999 percent of the time, we get what is termed as "coach speak."

Coach speak is a language made up of all of the same words that we all know and use to communicate with one another. However, coaches are not human beings. Their sole purpose in life is to win football games and to not talk to people of the media. The two masters of coach speak are undoubtedly Bill Belichick and Gregg Popovich. They are the standard by which all other coaches measure themselves. It takes a particular mix of abrasiveness and wit to truly master the language. Although Marvin Lewis has not reached Belichickian levels of coach speak, he's not far off.

Marvin Lewis sentences are filled with words that aren't really words. While you can look up the definition to each and every word spoken by him, those definitions become altogether obsolete when spilled out of his mouth, replaced by a vacuum of nothingness comparable to that of space. Like space, there is a lot. It's just a lot of nothing. However, a keen ear can decipher coach speak. Even though Marvin wants to say nothing, he is saying something. The message is nigh indiscernible to mere mortals. However, according to credentials that I made up, I have mastered this black and orange art of interpretation. Come with me, as we figure out just what this guy is talking about.

Opening Comments...

"We played a game yesterday where I thought starting with the defense, we could play a lot better. We have some things to get after and fix. I look forward to having that week of getting it done. Offensively, there are some negative things to correct. The fumbles are two big-time glaring errors, some things in the running game. We have some work to do. Same with special teams; we can't have penalties. Those things set us back.

"Defensively, we got some good things done, and one of the things to build upon is getting the ball out around the quarterback, which two in two weeks we've done. Two  huge plays. We have to continue to tackle better. If the ball happens to break the line of scrimmage, we have to do better at tackling."


If we could tackle, hold on to the ball, and commit fewer penalties, I wouldn't have to take my blood pressure medication tonight. Alas, here we are. Defensively, it's really nice that Geno Atkins is back because he makes our linebacking corps look less terrible.

Q: How has keeping the full defensive rotation fresh led to success so far?

"I think continuing to give guys opportunities to play is important. They have to do it the correct way when they're in there. Having fresh rushers at the end of the game is always important."


When football players have more energy, they are better at football.

Q: Will Clarke has been active, are you happy with his progression?

"Yes, Will continues to take steps forward and fit into the mold. We're happy with what he's doing."


He is stepping into a mold that doesn't look like Margus Hunt, so that's good.

Q: The defense responded well to the sudden change of the lost fumbles ...

"Both were big things, with the opportunities we had to go on the field in sudden change. We got the ball back in one, and the other they missed a field goal. Those were two key drives in the game. You have to have that mindset when you go on the field; to get in there and get the drive stopped."


The defense saved me from committing first-degree assault against Jeremy, which is a pretty big deal.

Q: Conversely, the offense responded to sudden change well?

"Yes. We scored twice yesterday on third downs. Those are big plays in any football game, when you can score touchdowns on third downs. They were good, accurate throws by the quarterback, and those turned into big plays of the game. We just have to keep after that. The defense stopping the two-point conversion was also a big play in the football game."


Your question is nonsensical, so I'm going to talk about third downs. We scored twice yesterday on third downs. When you score on third down, that means that you don't have to kick a field goal or punt, which is good.

Q: What has Vincent Rey done to get to where he is right now?

"Vinny's been a sponge. He's continued to work mentally and physically on everything. When he gets opportunities, he makes good on them. He's just been a sponge of every coaching point and thing you give him. He understands it and it has enabled him to progress as a football player."


Well, he is currently in the locker room, so I assume he walked there.

Q: You see Vontaze (Burfict) coaching him a lot on the sideline, trading notes it seems...

"Vontaze has had a lot of coaching. (Laughs) He's been coached a lot so he has a lot to offer. (Laughs) He's not shy about it. He's a smart guy and he has a lot to offer these guys. He's not out there on Sundays right now, so he's playing the game vicariously through them. He makes good points. I enjoy listening to the things he tells them."


Well, when a guy has a bunch of injuries, he ends up receiving a lot of coaching because he spends most of his time not playing. Amazingly, he has maintained his mental capacity and since he is actually a good linebacker, he can impart his linebacking knowledge on these other guys that you know, aren't good linebackers. I enjoy him coaching them up because I certainly have forgotten what a good linebacker is supposed to do.

Q: Is there a certain level of comfort knowing you are 2-0 and still have room to grow?

"Well, 2-0 doesn't matter much at the end of the year. We have a lot of work to do. We're talking about things that we have to do better in order to be successful. It's not nitpicking, its things we must correct."


Nope. There are 14 regular season games left to be played, not to mention potential playoff games. Based on the tackling ability we displayed, playing Pittsburgh twice leaves me anything but comfortable.

Q: Why have you found so much success in September?

"We say the same things over all the time. Don't turn the ball over, defend the score, and don't give up big plays. If you do those things you're going to have an opportunity to be successful. Our guys have embraced that understand that's how you win."


We don't have to gameplan for night games, which we still haven't really figured out.

Q: Is it connected with the continuity of this team in the offseason?

"I think it's also a part of it. The guys are comfortable in their surroundings and what we're doing. There's not a lot of big change. We enter the season on the same level of comfort as what's expected from them all the time. That takes the angst and unknowns out. Our guys are comfortable with what they know, and what's going to unfold. We strive through camp to keep them healthy, keep them on their feet, keep them fresh, and move forward. That's such a big part of our training camp."


Since most of these guys already know what they're supposed to do, I don't have to tell them, which allows me to concentrate on things like telling Jeremy not to fumble the football.

Q: There was a certain level of physicality to the offensive and defensive line that was apparent yesterday...

"I thought it was important for us to win the middle of the field. That was my thing all week. From the line of scrimmage to the goalposts, and I thought we did a good job. That was key in the game; that we defended the middle of the field, that we took care of the middle on offense. A.J. (Green)  scored down the middle, Marvin (Jones) scored down the middle. Those were things that we had to control on both offense and defense, and I think we did a pretty good job at that."


Since you didn't actually ask a question, here are a bunch of words that aren't really related to what you were attempting to ask.

Q: What do you attribute to the success of the pass rush?

"The quarterbacks having to hold on to the football. It's always to going to look that way if you manage the down and distance appropriately. They have to hold onto the ball a split second more, and we're doing a good job in coverage and mixing coverages, disguising coverages, we have to keep doing that. Those are key elements to having the quarterback maybe reload more for one-tenth of a second, and then you have a chance for the rush to get there. The guys rushing are doing a good job with pad level. Yesterday they did an excellent job of understanding the rush plan, and how we had to rush."


I don't like to single players out, but all I can think about is how good Geno Atkins is.

Q: Was this a chess match with Rivers, the way he reads plays and schemes?

"He's very good at it. He's going to dissect you as best he can every play. We have to react; eventually they're going to snap the football, and be in position to make plays."


No matter what, thanks to the play clock, they will have to snap the football eventually. It is then, that we will strike!

Q: Going back to the pass rush, it also speaks to the cornerbacks who are covering well?

"It takes the underneath guys as well. You play defense with 11 guys. You don't stop the run with the four guys in the middle. You play pass defense with all 11. It never comes down to a particular group, unless a guy blows an assignment. If you want to play great defense, you play great defense with all 11 guys."


I mean... yeah, sure. But did you see Geno?

Q: Why is the interior pass rush so important?

"Quarterbacks tend to step through the pocket. If they don't have that ability or are jostled around, then his eyes aren't down the field. When his eyes aren't down the field, you have a chance to get there. That's important, that you don't give up certain lanes."


If you haven't noticed, pocket passers typically step forward in the pocket to make their throws. Coincidentally, interior pressure makes it hard for them to do that very thing.

Q: Are there any keys in coaching Jeremy Hill through the fumbles?

"Jeremy's been a running back his entire life, so he understands taking care of the football is upmost. You can't have the ball stripped, and the second one is easy; catch the football before you run. That is junior high school teaching there. Jeremy will be fine; he will get back at it, and earn our trust as it goes. But we can't have the ball on the ground."


I suppose I could kindly remind him to not drop the ball, but that would probably be a waste of time and resources. He'll figure it out.

Q: Is it mental?

"If they're a weak personality, but I don't think Jeremy is a weak personality."


Watch, as I show you how to turn the word 'no' into fourteen words.

Q: Roles change. Gio Bernard yesterday is a great example...

"Neither of the guys knows how the game will unfold, so they have to be ready all the time. It's just like receivers; you can't predict how it's going go for you. You have to go run your route, get yourself open. You have to expect the football at all times. Same thing for guys on defense, you have to go through your role and do your job at all times."


Another non-question, cool. Gio's role did change.

Q: What do the Ravens and John Harbaugh do that makes them always so tough?

"We know we're going to have a tough physical football game in Baltimore. It's their home opener, and they will be prepared and ready to play."


In the old days, we had to worry about Ray Lewis' and Ray Rice's emotions really endangering lives off of the field. I think that we will sleep much easier in Baltimore this time around, but Flacco's eyebrows really freak me out.

Q: They haven't been 0-2 in a while?

"I'm not a Ravens historian (laughs)."