Remaining is win-win for M. Lewis and Ravens

February 10, 2002|By Mike Preston

DEFENSIVE coordinator Marvin Lewis agreed in principle to a new contract yesterday, a decision that was best for his family, and gave stability to his career as well as the Ravens.

If Lewis had become Tampa Bay's head coach, he would have been involved in a front office power struggle and not received full support.

If he had taken the coordinator's job in Washington, he would have been employed by impulsive owner Daniel Snyder, who has had four head coaches in four years, and under the supervision of unproven rookie Steve Spurrier.

After being used as a token and a pawn during the last two years for head coaching vacancies in Buffalo, Carolina and Tampa Bay, Lewis made a smart move by staying where he has built his reputation as one of the league's brightest defensive minds.

To stay in Baltimore was a relatively easy decision despite published reports in Washington and nationally that had him pretty much wearing the burgundy and gold for the hated Redskins in 2002.

The decision says something about the character of Lewis, a devoted family man, who turned down a lucrative offer from Synder, the league's latest boy genius.

According to league sources, Snyder made an initial multi-year offer that would have paid Lewis $850,000 base salary and $500,000 in incentives per season. Even after Lewis turned it down by mid-morning yesterday, Snyder and Spurrier kept up the pressure with numerous phone calls, and a proposed helicopter ride from Westminster to Washington.

Lewis said he will probably agree to a two-year Ravens deal. A league source said that, with incentives, Lewis can make $800,000 per season.

"I'm tired of putting my family through this," Lewis told The Sun. "[Ravens owner] Art Modell, [senior vice president of football operations] Ozzie Newsome, right straight down the line through the organization have been loyal to me. I'm at peace with this decision."

That's the key. Peace. There is no continuity with the Redskins or the Bucs. Snyder has had Norv Turner, Terry Robiskie, Marty Schottenheimer and now Spurrier as head coaches.

Schottenheimer, in his first season, performed well, finishing 8-8 after a slow start. But Snyder gave him a pink slip as soon as Spurrier became available, turning the Redskins into the model for disarrayed franchises.

Lewis is smart and articulate. He knows hiring a college coach is a gamble, especially one with the snooty, smarter-than-thou demeanor of Spurrier. Lou Holtz failed in trying to make the transition from college to the pros. So did Dennis Erickson. Both Jimmy Johnson and Bobby Ross had success, but it took Johnson some time.

There are those who believed that Lewis' best opportunity to become a head coach was to join the Redskins because the Ravens could lose as many as six players (ends Rob Burnett, Michael McCrary, tackle Tony Siragusa, linebacker Jamie Sharper and defensive backs Duane Starks and Rod Woodson) off last year's No. 2-ranked defense.

But if you take a close look at the Redskins, who were ranked No. 10 overall, they aren't in much better shape. Their defensive ends, Bruce Smith and Marco Coleman - are old by football standards and defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson will be 29 next month.

Washington has three All-Pro players in linebacker LaVar Arrington and cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Fred Smoot, but the Ravens have just as solid a nucleus in linebackers Peter Boulware, Ray Lewis and cornerback Chris McAlister.

Here's the major difference: Lewis' philosophy is gap control and blitzing. Just about every thing is funneled to Ray Lewis, which demands a great deal of unselfishness and discipline from other players. It took Marvin Lewis several years, with reinforcement from Ravens coach Brian Billick, to get the personnel in place.

It might take a year or two in Washington, where Snyder isn't known for patience, while Billick is expected to get an extension on a contract that already has three years remaining.

"My family is happy with the area," said Lewis.

By midday yesterday, you could tell the last couple of days had taken a toll on Lewis by the fatigue in his voice. He was surprisingly optimistic despite the despicable hiring process of the Bucs, which not only embarrassed the franchise, but the league.

In retrospect, Lewis should be glad he wasn't hired by the Bucs, who have replaced the Redskins as the model for incompetence. The Bucs are the sequel to Dumb and Dumber, starring the sons of Tampa Bay owner Malcolm Glazer, Brian and Edward, who are the modern-day Abbott and Costello.

First they attempted to hire Bill Parcells without firing former head coach Tony Dungy. Then they tried to hire Oakland's Jon Gruden, only to get blown off by the rebel without a clue, Oakland owner Al Davis. Then they spent five hours interviewing Lewis on Thursday night, which turned out to be nothing more than a lip service for general manager Rich McKay, who wanted to hire Lewis but had his powers stripped away by the Glazer boys.

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