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Ex-Bengals HC Marvin Lewis returns with Raiders aiming to aid Antonio Pierce: 'Hopefully I can benefit AP'

When the Las Vegas Raiders kick off their 2024 season, it will mark Marvin Lewis' NFL coaching return.

The longtime former Cincinnati Bengals head coach stated Wednesday that the inspiration behind his return was quite simply assisting head coach Antonio Pierce.

"I think just the opportunity to really assist AP," Lewis, the Raiders assistant head coach, said Wednesday when asked what appealed to him in taking the role. "From the time that I first met him and had the opportunity to coach him, and then the opportunity to kind of reunite again later on at Arizona State -- so kind of was in a similar role at one point there with him there as well, being in support of him, I just have been really impressed all the time with him. Back to 2002 with the now-Commanders, I guess. So, it's just this opportunity."

Lewis was the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens from 1996-2001, helming an all-time great 2000 defensive squad that keyed the franchise's run to a Super Bowl XXXV triumph. After his Ravens tenure, he spent one season as Washington's DC in 2002 before moving on to become the head coach for the Bengals. In that '02 season, Lewis coached a 24-year-old Pierce. Pierce's best playing seasons were still in front of him, but he clearly made an impression on Lewis.

"I knew he was driven as a player," Lewis said.

Lewis hasn't coached in the NFL since 2018, his last year with the Bengals after a 16-season run that culminated with a 131-122-3 record along with seven playoff berths. In the autumns that followed, Lewis was part of an Arizona State staff that Pierce also was a member of from 2018-2021.

Pierce was hired as the Raiders linebackers coach in 2022, became the interim head coach in 2023 following Josh McDaniels' ousting and was subsequently hired as full-time head coach. During his 2023 tenure, Pierce called on former head coaches like Lewis, Tom Coughlin and Adam Gase.

"He's not stuck on himself, that way," Lewis said. "He wants to hear other people's point of views, and so forth, that way. And that's good, but he has a great direction, himself, as a leader. He takes responsibility for providing the direction and reinforcing it every day."

In his rise up the coaching ranks, Lewis learned from Bill Cowher, Brian Billick and Steve Spurrier. He's hoping to provide a similar mentorship to Pierce.

"I think those were helpful to me when I got the opportunity to become a head coach," Lewis said, "and hopefully I can help benefit AP, as well, that way."

Lewis resides in Scottsdale, Arizona, so the close-ish proximity to Las Vegas helped to make the decision easier. Overall, it wasn't really something he sought out.

"It came pretty organically," he said. "I'm excited about it. I had a couple other people inquire at times about my interest in doing something similar."

Similarly, Lewis was 45 during his first year at the helm of the Bengals and Pierce will turn 46 during the 2024 season -- his first as a full-time NFL head coach. Both are defensive-minded coaches and Lewis is hoping to offer the same type of guidance he received in the early stages of his NFL coaching career.

Beyond that, he didn't delve too far into the details of his involvement as an assistant head coach.

"I'm here to support [the coaches] in anything I can do that way, as well as the squad, the players," Lewis said. "That's a thing that's important to me. I try to keep things leveled off for them as much as I can."

It's a new era for the Silver and Black with Pierce at the helm. With just two seasons of NFL coaching experience, Pierce has Lewis, and his nearly three decades of NFL coaching knowledge, to lean on.

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