M. Lewis: Bills or else

Browns pick Davis, leave Buffalo as lone spot open for Ravens' defensive guru

4 candidates for head coach

`Master' of Ravens `D' sees Bills GM, old Steelers boss

January 30, 2001|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

His options reduced by one yesterday, Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis met with Buffalo general manager Tom Donahoe in Baltimore last night to discuss the Bills' vacant head coaching job.

One day after Lewis' defense throttled the New York Giants for a 34-7 victory in Super Bowl XXXV, he learned that another potential head coaching opportunity had evaporated.

The Cleveland Browns, who had also requested permission from the Ravens to talk to Lewis, will introduce Butch Davis today as successor to Chris Palmer. Davis resigned as coach at the University of Miami yesterday.

"There's now one job available instead of two," Ray Anderson, Lewis' agent, said last night. "Marvin was, we thought, the top candidate at both. Obviously, Cleveland and Butch Davis had other ideas."

Lewis is one of four candidates being considered by Donahoe as a replacement for deposed Wade Phillips. The others - all defensive coordinators - are John Fox of the Giants, Gregg Williams of the Tennessee Titans and Ted Cottrell, formerly of the Bills.

Cottrell recently took the coordinator's job with the New York Jets, but would rejoin the Bills if offered the head coaching job. Although he has not formally been scratched, it's believed Williams is no longer a candidate in Buffalo.

Donahoe is scheduled to interview Fox today.

Anderson met with Lewis immediately after the Super Bowl, when the Ravens allowed just 36 total yards in a stifling second-half performance, and 152 overall.

"Buffalo may be the better fit," Anderson said. "We believe Marvin is unequivocally the best candidate."

Lewis, 42, was not available to comment last night.

Davis, meanwhile, emerged as the Browns' coach after rejecting an offer from the team earlier in the month. He was close to signing a five-year extension at Miami. He has NFL experience, however, having served as defensive coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys under Jimmy Johnson from 1989 to 1994. The Cowboys won two Super Bowls during that time.

Reportedly, Davis will sign a five-year contract worth $3 million a year, and likely will become director of football operations, precipitating a front office shuffle for the Browns. Cleveland fired Palmer on Jan. 11 after he went 5-27 in his two seasons.

Lewis was thought to be the top candidate in Buffalo, where he would be reunited with Donahoe. Lewis was linebackers coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1992 to 1995, when Donahoe was director of football operations.

The Ravens lured Lewis with the coordinator's title in 1996 when the franchise moved to Baltimore from Cleveland. He was the only member of Ted Marchibroda's staff retained when Brian Billick became coach in 1999.

At his final Super Bowl news conference yesterday, Billick sounded resigned to losing Lewis.

"I'm not making those decisions," he said. "I would find it hard to believe that someone as capable as Marvin Lewis and who has demonstrated the abilities he has shown over his career ... that someone would not feel that he's qualified to be a head coach in the National Football League. That would be a stretch to me."

Ray Lewis, the MVP middle linebacker of the Super Bowl, credits Lewis with a major portion of the Ravens' defense.

"I think this defense has to give 90 percent of the credit to Marvin, because he's the master behind it," Lewis said. "And at the same time, we have to understand if Marvin does leave, we can't cry. We've just got to keep doing what we're doing and keep pushing on."

Anderson says the time is right for Lewis to make the jump to head coach. "Marvin's next step is to be head coach and that time is now," Anderson said. "We would hope he has proven everything humanly possible that says `I'm a head coach.'

"Defensively, Marvin is every bit and perhaps more of a prime candidate than even Brian Billick was coming out of Minnesota two years ago. And I don't think anyone would question he was ready. I feel equally strong about Marvin. No one is more deserving than Marvin Lewis."

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