Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is the second-longest tenured head coach in the NFL, and Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter is entering his first year as his team's head coach. Lewis is a defense-oriented coach, while Koetter has developed a reputation as an offensive mastermind. In terms of scheme and philosophy, the two may seem like polar opposites, but they both share common roots.
Lewis and Koetter both attended Idaho State, and they were both on the same football team. In fact, Lewis--who played from 1977-1980 and latched on as a coach in 1981--was both Koetter's teammate and coach, though Lewis was a defensive assistant and Koetter was the backup quarterback. In 1981, Lewis' first year as a coaching assistant, Idaho State went 12-1 and won the Division I-AA National Championship--just two years after the team suffered through an 0-11 season. Koetter threw a 12-yard pass on a fake punt, setting up his team's first score of the game.
Lewis earned all-Big Sky Conference honors in three out of the four years he suited up at linebacker; it's been mentioned that if he were 50 pounds heavier and a couple of inches taller, he could've played professionally. And though Koetter was only a backup quarterback at Idaho State, he played in--and won--a national championship as a backup quarterback, which counts for something.
On Friday, the two coaches attended Idaho State's Football Alumni Team Fundraiser in Pocatello, Idaho. At the event, Lewis and Koetter were able to catch up with one another and discuss football. With Koetter's promotion from offensive coordinator to head coach in Tampa, Idaho State has become one of only three schools with multiple alumni who are currently NFL head coaches.
"It's a great accomplishment," said Lewis of the school's feat, per the Idaho State Journal. "The university ought to be very proud of it. ISU's obviously been a big part of both of our lives and our coaching careers."
Lewis not only had praise for his alma mater but also for his former teammate. "It's hard to tell Dirk anything. He knows most everything," Lewis said. "Dirk's been a head coach before, so he knows the trials and tribulations. He was a head coach in high school. He was a head coach at a couple universities, so he understands."
Koetter, who had been coaching for 33 years before finally earning a shot at head coach, reciprocated Lewis' praise and more.
"He doesn't tell people what they want to hear. He tells them the truth. But he's really good with all kinds of people. Marvin's one of the most genuine human beings I've ever met." Koetter even cited Lewis, a former teammate and coach, as one of his role models. "Marvin's the second-longest tenured coach in the NFL, done an unbelievable job at Cincinnati. Shoot, he's an idol of mine. I'm proud of him."
NFL coaches could likely discuss tactics and strategy for weeks at a time, so it's no surprise to hear that Lewis offered a bit of wisdom for Koetter when they reunited on Friday. What is surprising, however, is that Lewis' advice was geared toward the way Koetter, an offensive-minded coach, runs his team's offense. The advice was simple: "throw deep."
"I'm serious," Koetter said. "Marvin's a defensive coach. I'm an offensive coach. He said offenses don't throw deep enough." That's easier said than done with guys like Chad Johnson, A.J. Green, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chris Henry and Marvin Jones out wide, which Lewis has benefitted from throughout his tenure. But to Lewis, good receivers can only be effective when a capable passer mans the quarterback position. In fact, Lewis attributed a large portion of his success to his team's past and present quarterbacks.
"I've been fortunate," Lewis said. "I inherited Jon Kitna. We drafted Carson Palmer, and then we drafted Andy Dalton, so I've been very fortunate to have good quarterbacks that have done an excellent job in leading the football team and doing what you need a quarterback to do to be productive in the National Football League."
And from the looks of it, Koetter might be set up for a career similar to that of Lewis. With promising second-year quarterback Jameis Winston, veteran wideout Vincent Jackson and third-year receiver Mike Evans, Koetter's offense is loaded--and that's without mentioning Doug Martin, whose 1,402 rushing yards in 2015 ranked second among all running backs.
Koetter mentioned he's excited see the Buccaneers improve and watch Winston develop into a "top-flight NFL quarterback." Only time will tell whether Koetter can stick around in Tampa, but if he's anything like Lewis, he could have a very long NFL coaching career. Regardless of what happens in the future, he certainly has the weapons to throw it deep as Lewis advised.