The Green Bay Packers (1-1) and Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) will play each other in Southern Ohio Sunday, as both teams look to improve off of week two wins and avoid dropping to a 1-2 record. Both teams are meeting for the first time since 2009 and it marks the second meeting between Packers head coach Mike McCarthy and Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. McCarthy and Lewis have a strong relationship, dating back to their past while they were assistant coaches at the University of Pittsburgh in the early 1990's. McCarthy was a quarterbacks and wide receivers coach and Lewis coached linebackers.
"McCarthy was a great coach," Lewis said in a conference call on Wednesday. "You knew he was going to be a talented coach. He was an extremely hard worker, very smart too. The career he has had in coaching doesn't surprise me a bit. He has been a good friend, and I was very impressed with Mike right away."
McCarthy has put together an outstanding record of 75-39 in just over seven seasons as Packers head coach since 2006. McCarthy's teams have only missed the playoffs twice in the past seven seasons, and the Packers are 7-4 with one Super Bowl title in the playoffs. Lewis knew McCarthy would be a great coach and McCarthy has even more respect for his friend and colleague. "He is an outstanding football coach," McCarthy said. "Knowing him over the years, he has a great personality and he is a good man. My first impression of him (at Pittsburgh) was his ability to relate to players. He is very impressive, and his record speaks for itself."
Lewis' record 80-81 in ten-plus seasons as Bengals head coach isn't nearly as impressive as McCarthy's, but the Bengals have only suffered three losing seasons in the last ten years under Lewis' watch. Lewis said after a rough 0-3 start in his first season with the Bengals in 2003, he received encouraging phone calls from respected NFL coaches. "You lose people to talk to," Lewis said. "When I was here, coaches Bill Parcells and Dick Vermeil called me, telling me to keep it up. I felt that way with Mike. I was so jacked for him (when he got the Packers head coaching job). He has built a power and they have been world champions."
Lewis and McCarthy have both been NFL head coaches longer than the norm. Lewis said the key reason he has been able to keep his job for so long is because he had the shown the flexibility to make changes. "I think we changed our philosophy over once," Lewis said. "I think that was an important part of things. I was fortunate at a point when I was questioning if this job was right for me and if I was right for them. I think that was important, even as a coaching staff, we have to start new and start fresh, and it happened fast."
McCarthy also dealt with his rookie head coaching troubles during his first year on the job in 2006. The Packers were 4-8, and Lewis decided to employ the same philosophy utilized by Parcells and Vermeil with McCarthy. "It is something I'll never forget," McCarthy said. "My first year as head coach didn't start very good, and he (Lewis) called me. You appreciate those things. He said trust me, it is good to start this way, because guys who line up three, or '4-0' have no idea what lies in front of them."
Lewis has yet to win a playoff game in Cincinnati, but he said he is happy to have a supportive team owner in Mike Brown. "It means a lot," Lewis said. "We talk every morning, chat five or ten minutes every morning and talk about what's up. He is more patient than I am. We've been able to improve here and get better, and we are still chasing the same thing."
McCarthy knows his team will have their hands full in Cincinnati on Sunday, as two divisional favorites will square-off in what should be a close battle from start to finish. "There are things you have to do on the road differently than at home," McCarthy said. "We've been there before, it'll be a great crowd. We're hoping to see a lot of Packer fans there. This will be a big challenge for us."
The Packers and Bengals will kickoff at noon CST on FOX. Check your local listings for television coverage.
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