Lions coach Jim Schwartz shares a laugh with Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, who is the only one who can get away calling the Detroit boss 'Jimmy.' (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
Allen Park — At some point early Sunday morning, Lions coach Jim Schwartz and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis will embrace and have a quick chat. Then they will go about trying to destroy the other’s team.
“Nobody is a friend on Sunday,” Schwartz said.
Truth is, though, Schwartz and Lewis have been friends since 1996 when Lewis hired him in Baltimore.
“Jimmy, obviously, he means a lot to me; I owe him a lot,” said Lewis. “He was a great coach with me and just tremendous. I’ve had the same administrative assistant here for going on 14 years and Jimmy hired her. Every(thing) around me I owe it to Jimmy.”
Such is the depth of their bond, Lewis may be the only person on the planet allowed to call him Jimmy.
“When you work together like we did, you spend a lot of time together,” Lewis said. “When you come from the bottom like we did, you really grind together. You really are that close.”
When Lewis was hired as defensive coordinator in Baltimore, Schwartz was already on staff. General manager Ozzie Newsome encouraged Lewis to interview and retain Schwartz, which he did.
“It was Marvin’s first job as defensive coordinator and I moved over from scouting into quality control,” Schwartz said. “The quality control guy is sort of the right hand man to the coordinator, so I got a chance to learn every bit of the defense.
“The biggest thing I learned was Marvin’s consistency. He’s not a guy that gets too high or a guy that gets too low…He is a real steady guy and you see that reflected in their team.”
Lewis paid Newsome’s favor forward a few years later. When Brian Billick took over in Baltimore and cleaned out the defensive staff, Lewis strongly recommended Schwartz to Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher and his defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
“When we got fired in Baltimore and Brian Billick wanted to hire my next defensive assistant, Mike Smith, Jimmy was out a job,” Lewis said. “So I did the same thing with Jeff and Greg in order to convince them to give Jimmy an opportunity to interview with them in Tennessee.
“Later they thanked me. He’s top-shelf. I think he’s done a great job.”
Schwartz eventually replaced Williams and was the defensive coordinator in Tennessee for 10 seasons.