Koetter, Lewis share path from Pocatello to NFL
BOCA RATON -- There are only 32 NFL head coaches in the world, and yet two of them -- the Bucs' Dirk Koetter and the Bengals' Marvin Lewis -- overlapped 38 years ago as teammates and coaching colleagues in, of all places, Pocatello, Idaho.
As players at Idaho State and as young coaches on the Bengals' 1981 Division I-AA championship squad, they forged a friendship that remains decades later -- at the NFL league meetings here, Koetter passed along a question for Lewis' interview session with reporters: Did he ever, ever win a game at Syringa Gardens?
"I slammed on him a bunch," Lewis says with a smile, passing back another inside joke from decades back. "Ask him if he was able to row a canoe, to get to Point A to Point B without falling in the water."
The two played together and cut their coaching teeth as graduate assistants on the coaching staff when Koetter's father Jim was an assistant at Idaho State. That Koetter would follow Lewis -- now in his 14th year as head coach in Cincinnati -- to coach at the highest level doesn't surprise him.
"He's been a student of the game. We sat in grad school classes and never paid attention," Lewis said. "All we did is doodle plays back and forth. It hasn't shocked me."
The two have been close ever since -- Lewis remembers spending many Thanksgiving dinners at the Koetter home, and he introduced Koetter to his wife Kim.
"Dirk's been very successful as a coach, gee whiz, since 1981," Lewis said. "His father was a great, great coach and we both learned a great deal from his father. He's continued to be successful at every turn in his career, and I would expect the same thing now as the head coach of the Bucs."