Tampa does about-face on M. Lewis

Buccaneers back out of hiring Raven as their head coach

`I did everything I could'

Son of Bucs' veto what appeared to be a done deal

February 09, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Marvin Lewis was discussing Tampa Bay over lunch with his wife, Peggy, when the shocking news hit yesterday.

Receiving a call from his agent at 11:45 a.m., the Ravens' defensive coordinator learned that the Buccaneers had abruptly backed out of hiring him as their new head coach.

According to league sources, Tampa Bay officials were planning to issue a news release announcing Lewis as their coach only an hour earlier. But the deal unraveled when the sons of Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer, who serve as vice presidents with the club, vetoed the selection of Lewis after meeting with him late Thursday.

"I'm disappointed," said a stunned Lewis only two hours after hearing the news. "It's a shame that the Ravens and my family have had to go through this. It's played on the emotions of my family and friends, and that's bad. But I'm going to move on."

So where does Lewis plan to move on?

Lewis' contract with the Ravens expires on March 1. The Ravens granted permission to the Washington Redskins on Wednesday to speak to Lewis about their defensive coordinator position.

Although there have been reports that the Redskins are going to try to lure him with an offer of between $1 million and $1.5 million annually, a league source said no such offer has been made. According to one NFL executive, the highest-paid coordinators average around $600,000 a year, and Brian Billick earned $1.5 million in his first year as head coach of the Ravens.

Lewis has been invited to visit with the Redskins today but had not decided whether to do so as of late last night, a source said. Asked if he would return to the Ravens, Lewis indicated he needed the weekend to consider his future.

"I'm thinking about my options," Lewis said.

Billick, though, expressed confidence that Lewis will be back.

"It's our understanding that Marvin will be here with us," Billick said. "We'll address that [a new contract] with Marvin in a short period of time to decide exactly what direction he wants to go. But I imagine that this will be taken care of very quickly."

The team is looking to have Lewis re-signed as early as today, a source said. Ravens owner Art Modell did not return phone calls from The Sun.

"As of this conversation, Marvin Lewis is still a Baltimore Raven," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' senior vice president of football operations. "He was in the office today and has already started working for next season. We're very disappointed with how things worked out with Tampa Bay. He deserves to be a head coach in the NFL."

The mishandling of Lewis added another chapter to the Buccaneers' coaching search debacle.

Lewis, 43, was recommended by Tampa Bay general manager Rich McKay to become the head coach on Feb. 1. The Glazers, however, wanted to exhaust all efforts in trying to obtain Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, who has one year remaining on his contract.

After talks with the Raiders ended Wednesday, Lewis was considered the favorite for the job.

On Thursday night, Lewis had his first meeting with the Glazers, sitting down with Joel and Ed Glazer for five hours in Tysons Corner, Va. The next morning, McKay was reportedly ready to open contract negotiations with Lewis' agent.

But according to sources, the Glazers told McKay that they couldn't authorize the hiring, saying they weren't comfortable with Lewis.

"I feel badly that Marvin had to be the victim of what appears to be a power struggle between the Glazer family and Rich McKay," Ray Anderson told ESPN. "Rich acted in good faith through the process, but the treatment afforded Marvin by the Glazer family was shabby, to say the least."

Although his meeting with the Glazers ended with an unsettling feeling, Lewis talked with McKay twice yesterday morning and was assured everything was fine.

"I did everything I could," Lewis said. "I had been told it was practically done. But the guy who thought he was making the decision wasn't making the decision."

Many of the Ravens' coaching staff congratulated Lewis when he arrived at the practice complex yesterday. When the news circulated after noon, many were startled by the announcement and upset by how Lewis was treated in Tampa Bay's coaching search.

"Having stood on the sideline with him for three years under the baptism of fire that you go through when you stand in front of 70,000 people, you find out about character of people," Billick said. "I've always advocated that if you look at the credentials of a Marvin Lewis and sit down and talk to Marvin Lewis, you will hire Marvin Lewis."

The Ravens were ready to unveil their new-look coaching staff once Lewis was hired by the Buccaneers. Receivers coach Mike Nolan would have been promoted to defensive coordinator, and Raiders quarterbacks coach David Shaw was going to be named receivers-quarterbacks coach.

If Lewis would leave for the Redskins, those Ravens staff changes would go into effect. If Lewis stays, it's possible that Nolan would remain the receivers coach and Shaw would be named quarterbacks coach.

"I'm excited about where we're at right now," Billick said. "I'm excited about the changes that are going on in this organization. It's energizing. As distraught and upset I am for Marvin, I'm equally as happy that Marvin is going to be with us in Baltimore."

The only defensive coordinator in the Ravens' six-year history, Lewis is an architect of a record-setting defense that has finished No. 2 in the NFL the past three seasons. It's the third time in the past year that Lewis has been a finalist for an NFL coaching job and missed out at the end.

"I believe I can and will be a successful NFL head coach," Lewis said. "You just have to believe that things happen for a reason."

New Ravens facility

The Ravens and Baltimore County have reached a tentative agreement on a 25-year lease for 25 acres of Owings Mills parkland where the team plans to build a training facility. [Article, 1B]

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