Pros, no cons: With hiring of Marvin Lewis, ASU shows strong belief in NFL model

TEMPE – Herm Edwards and Arizona State football continue to build upon the pro model. Since he took the head coaching job in December 2017, Edwards has built his staff with a certain profile, one with experience in the NFL.

He dreamed of adding another coach who, years before, stood across from him on the opposing sideline, and when that coach became available, a quick phone call made the hire a reality.

On Tuesday, ASU announced that former NFL head coach Marvin Lewis will be added to its staff as a special adviser.

“When Marvin left Cincinnati, I called him, said, ‘If you want to come to work, I got a place for you’ … I just told him, ‘If you ever want to get back in it, you can help me tremendously,’” Edwards said.

Lewis has worked in several coaching positions in the NFL since 1992. He is most known for his time as head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals from 2003-18. While in Cincinnati, Lewis finished as the Bengals’ all-time winningest coach, with 131 wins that included several playoff appearances and the 2009 Associated Press Coach of the Year.

Lewis also has experience in the collegiate ranks. From 1981-91, he served as linebackers coach for Idaho State, Long Beach State, New Mexico and Pittsburgh.

“I’ve been excited about this opportunity to come here and assist Herm and the coaches and do everything I can to help this program win every game we play,” Lewis said. “I think that’s important, it’s what it’s all about. It gives me an opportunity to assist and give back to the people who helped me along the way as well.”

The Bengals, who finished 6-10 last season, fired Lewis after 16 years at the helm. Lewis and the Bengals have had three straight losing seasons, but he was responsible for seven of the 14 playoff appearances in the Bengals’ 52-season history. Before joining ASU, Lewis had a short stint working for NFL Network and helping with broadcasts for the now-defunct Alliance of American Football.

After 39 years of coaching, Lewis made it clear he would rather give back to the game than stay in the booth.

“My role is different now with that,” he said. “It’ll be fun to be around the young coaches that he has and they’re just fired up to do great things in their careers. And I’m just excited to be a part of that.”

As a special adviser, Lewis will not be able to coach any of the athletes directly, similar to the analysts roles held by Kevin Mawae, Derek Hagan, Anthony Garnett and Sam Bennett. Lewis will be able to help the coaching staff with self-scouting, future opponent scouting and evaluating future recruits.

“I envision just being another set of eyes, another set of ears and doing anything I can to help the coaches. I was really impressed with the staff and what they accomplished after they hit the ground running last season,” Lewis said in a Tuesday statement. “ASU is a great university and is known for having an outstanding athletic program that has always been able to attract top athletes from around the country and I look forward to doing all I can to help the program.”

ASU now has two former head coaches on staff; Edwards coached the Jets for five seasons and the Chiefs for three. The common theme for Sun Devil coaches is the NFL time on their resumes. Mawae (16 seasons as a player), Hagan (eight seasons as a player), special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum (nine seasons on the Packers coaching staff), linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Antonio Pierce (nine seasons as a player), director of player personal Al Luginbill (worked with NFL evaluations and NFL Europe) and football consultant/SDC ambassador Danny White (13 seasons as a player) all share a background at the next level with Lewis and Edwards.

Edwards’ NFL history has helped more than just build one of the more impressive crews in the Pac-12 conference. It has helped Arizona State in recruiting as well. Incoming freshman defensive back Jordan Clark is the son of Edwards’ former ESPN colleague and retired NFL player Ryan Clark. The Sun Devils also have a current commitment to their 2020 recruiting class from Chad Johnson Jr., son of former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson.

Both former head coaches spoke of how having NFL experience on a staff becomes an advantage in recruiting.

“It makes a large impact. When you have the ability to bring in players that have aspirations to play in that league. When you have a coaching staff with members who have played and coached in the league, that’s big,” Edwards said. “We’re not going to pretend that it’s not because it is. Most of these kids now they have the aspirations on playing on Sunday.”

“The competitiveness of recruiting nowadays, when you talk to the kids as I have for the last almost 27 years talking with these kids prior to the draft and so forth,” Lewis said. “Why you chose to make the decision for choices where they decide to go to school and so forth, they choose for the competitiveness for that environment that will hopefully springboard them to the next level. I think that’s what the build upon here is, how you continue down that road and compete with those types of athletes.”

Edwards’ building of a family atmosphere in Tempe came through on Wednesday. Lewis mentioned that his daughter graduated from ASU, and with an upbeat tone discussed how his wife won’t be far from her grandchildren. The former NFL head coach explained the mood around the Sun Devil facility in a few simple words:

“A lot of smiles today.”

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