Marvin Lewis was defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens from 1996 through 2001. In 2000, the Ravens won the Super Bowl behind a defense that is considered by some to be the best of all time. The linebackers’ coach at the time? Jack Del Rio.
Del Rio was recently let go as the head coach of the Los Angeles Raiders, presumably to make room for Jon Gruden to return as head coach. And, as it happens, the Cincinnati Bengals may be in need of a new defensive coordinator as reports are circling that Paul Guenther has decided to seek opportunities elsewhere. (Is it any wonder after the Bengals left him and all the other assistant coaches spinning in the wind?)
Lewis and Del Rio worked together from 1999 through 2001. Baltimore was rated No. 6 in total defense in 1999, and No. 4 in 2001. The Ravens set several records during the 2000 season, including fewest points allowed during a 16-game season with 165 and and fewest rushing yards allowed with 970.
Linebacker Ray Lewis was named defensive player of the year by the Associated Press and was the lynchpin of a 4-3 defense that allowed him to roam from sideline to sideline and put the burden of success squarely on his shoulders. Cincinnati just happens to have a linebacker cut in the same mold as Lewis, and relies on the 4-3 scheme as well.
Del Rio knows linebackers. In addition to serving as a linebackers’ coach for the Ravens, he had an 11-year career in the NFL as a linebacker with New Orleans, Kansas City, Dallas and Minnesota, and made the Pro Bowl in his next-to-last season in the league.
“We’re really good friends, and our families are friends,” Lewis said about Del Rio back in 2015 when the Bengals played the Raiders in the season opener. “We spend time together in the offseason. So, when the schedule came out, we quit talking. We will talk afterwards. But you know he does a fantastic job, and they’ve put together a really good football team, and it’s evident on tape.”
Clearly, Lewis is not only friends with but a fan of Del Rio’s.
"When Jack was a player, he was a guy that I wanted Ray Lewis to emulate and learn from," Lewis said in an interview in 2015. "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. 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."
After his time in Baltimore was up, Del Rio became the defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers and, in 2002, led them to boasting the second best defense in the league.
In 2003, Del Rio was named head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Del Rio was fired as the head coach of the Jaguars on November 29, 2011 after having compiled a record of 68-71, including a 1-2 record in two playoff appearances. When Bengals’ defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer was being considered for head coaching positions in 2012, Del Rio’s name came up as a possible replacement.
But Zimmer stayed, and Del Rio went on to become defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos. He became interim head coach of the Broncos on November 4, 2013 when John Fox was sidelined for medical reasons, and became head coach of the Raiders on January 14, 2015.
It makes sense that Del Rio would be on Lewis’ short list to replace Guenther as defensive coordinator with the Bengals. Could he actually get the job?