When the last NFL coaching door closed yesterday, Marvin Lewis retreated to his family in Finksburg and his record-setting defense with the Ravens.
They remain the two loves in his life.
Once the Buffalo Bills picked Tennessee's Gregg Williams as their new coach, it sent Lewis back to his job as defensive coordinator with the world champion Ravens, albeit in a new tax bracket.
It also closed a search process that his agent termed peculiar, and one with which Lewis was clearly uncomfortable. Ray Anderson, the agent, admitted his disappointment before catching a flight back to Atlanta last evening.
"The process was suspect in that there was no discussion of contract terms, there was no chance to meet or talk with [Bills owner] Ralph Wilson, who was supposedly going to make the decision," said Anderson. "There was no opportunity to see or get a feel for the Buffalo [practice] facility or the Buffalo community where Marvin was going to have to move his family.
"In my personal opinion, that made the process incomplete."
Lewis, whose defense spearheaded the Ravens' Super Bowl championship run, interviewed with Bills president Tom Donahoe for five hours Monday night in Baltimore. The two spoke again by phone on Wednesday in what appears to have been Lewis' final chance at winning the job.
Sources in both cities say those talks snagged on a difference in financial commitment on the Bills' part and on Lewis' unwillingness to commit to the Bills without first making a visit to Buffalo.
Lewis acknowledged the priority on family and fit.
"What I need is my family to feel comfortable," said Lewis, who has two children, Whitney, 15, and Marcus, 10, with his wife, Peggy. "In any job interview, it's a two-way street. I can't commit to do something until I know the parameters of what's going to affect me."
When asked how badly he wanted the Buffalo job, he was evasive. "I would like to be a head coach in the right situation," he said. "I'll know when it's right."
It is believed that Lewis was the front-runner when Donahoe began the search for a replacement for deposed Wade Phillips. But Williams, the defensive coordinator for the Titans, had a strong interview in Nashville, Tenn., last Friday.
That interview apparently moved Williams to the head of a group that included New York Giants defensive coordinator John Fox and former Bills defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell. More problematic for Lewis was speculation about his involvement with the Bills and Cleveland Browns, the last two teams with coaching vacancies.
Sources in Buffalo suggest that Donahoe was disturbed by a perceived playing off of Cleveland against Buffalo by Lewis' agent.
Anderson waded through a host of allegations during a three-day vigil in Baltimore waiting to begin negotiations, and denied them all, including one yesterday that suggested he had made a list of demands that the Bills rejected.
"Absolutely false," Anderson said of the demands. "We had no opportunity to communicate anything to them. Now we sit back with amazement at all the purported reasons why they did what they did.
"We certainly were disappointed with the lack of communication. There was no communication with me whatsoever. Our experience is, if you're a serious candidate, they'd have been a little more in touch with Marvin, as opposed to waiting 48 hours to get a summary report from Tom. That was peculiar."
Anderson said he never got to address any financial issues with Donahoe, although Lewis admitted the subject did come up in his interview.
It's believed the Bills were shopping for a coach in the $1 million-a-year category. Sources said both Lewis and Fox wanted something more in line with the NFL's market value.
When Brian Billick signed to coach the Ravens in 1999, he got a six-year deal worth $1.5 million a year. Butch Davis, the University of Miami coach who was also a defensive coordinator on a Super Bowl team in Dallas, this week signed a five-year deal with the Browns that averaged $3 million a year.
Lewis was victimized by the NFL rule that prohibits a team from contacting a coach whose team is still playing. Billick said the league needs to return the decision on when a coach can interview to the individual teams.
"I understand what the league's doing," Billick said. "They're trying to keep a certain arm's length for the coaches still involved with the season and theoretically that makes sense. It's a bit naive to think that's not going to occupy their time, their mind and their efforts, anyway.
"I'd just as soon it be handled at the club level. I think we're grown men and can make our own judgments. Because as it stands now, coaches who aren't in the playoffs, and college coaches, have a huge advantage to be in a competitive market where they can go out and seek these jobs [while] a guy that's on a winning football team has his hands tied behind his back."
Billick is thrilled to have Lewis return, nonetheless.
"My perspective toward Marvin is biased," he said. "He's as competent and capable a coach as I've been around. The coaches who have been hired all were competent men as well. We're very fortunate to have Marvin back."
Lewis, who will receive an increase in salary to stay with the Ravens, was unshaken by yesterday's developments.
"I'm content," he said. "Family was a big part of it. It all has to work together. It's family, it's our affection for everything here."
That point was made dramatically clear when the Ravens returned from their Super Bowl victory on Monday. As Lewis drove to his home in the Beaver Creek Estates community of Finksburg, there was a handmade sign welcoming him home.
"All the neighbors signed it," Lewis said. "It was great."
The Ravens' 2001 schedule (dates, times to be determined):
Home Away Cincinnati Cincinnati
Minnesota Tampa Bay
Chicago Green Bay