Ravens' Lewis goes south

Changing his mind, he agrees to be 'Skins' defensive coordinator

Coach to sign 3-year deal

Modell: `Money talks louder than words'

ante upped to $1.2M

February 11, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

A day after saying he was "at peace" with his decision to return to the Ravens, Marvin Lewis spurned the team by agreeing to become defensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins.

The only defensive coordinator in the Ravens' six-year history, Lewis floored the organization by abruptly backing out of an agreement to stay and instead will sign a three-year contract with its rival 40 miles down the interstate. A league source indicated that Washington lured Lewis yesterday with an NFL-record offer that could pay him as much as $1.2 million each year with incentives.

The Ravens will promote receivers coach Mike Nolan to defensive coordinator, with an announcement planned for today.

Lewis did not return phone calls last night.

Although Lewis has not signed a contract with the Redskins, the Ravens seem resigned to losing him.

"Sometimes, money talks louder than words," Ravens owner Art Modell said in a statement. "This is an opportunity Marvin felt he had to take. I'm disappointed that whoever misled us about Marvin staying did that to the Ravens."

The one who misled the Ravens was Lewis himself.

On Saturday, Lewis declined an invitation to meet with new Redskins coach Steve Spurrier and owner Daniel Snyder and turned down the Redskins' big-money offer. Though his contract with the Ravens will expire March 1, he announced he would remain with the team for a new two-year deal estimated to be worth $800,000 a season with incentives.

"I told them I was returning," Lewis told The Sun on Saturday. "I'm tired of putting my family through this. 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."

Lewis did not sign that deal, however, and the Redskins continued to negotiate with his agent, Ray Anderson, who apparently persuaded Lewis to reconsider late yesterday afternoon.

"I think you have to give Marvin the benefit of the doubt," Anderson said. "There was a lot of trauma in regards to the Tampa Bay situation. With that in mind, maybe he was a little too hasty in talking about his future with the Ravens.

"The Redskins were passionate about where they were going and about winning. They were pro-active about how Marvin fit in."

The Redskins plan to give Lewis full autonomy over the defense, which is basically the same agreement he had with the Ravens, and could give him the title of assistant head coach.

"At this time right now, the contract has not been signed," Spurrier said. "But we're hoping it gets done."

In an unusual twist, Lewis turned his back on the Ravens in the same manner the Tampa Bay Buccaneers treated him three days ago. On Friday, the Buccaneers were planning to announce Lewis as their new head coach, but decided not to hire him in the 11th hour when team owners wouldn't approve the selection.

The Ravens hadn't talked about extending Lewis' contract, because they believed he was going to be named Tampa Bay's coach. When Lewis was turned down by the Buccaneers, the Ravens expected him to return despite the Redskins' expensive overtures.

Lewis was at the Ravens' Owings Mills practice complex all last week.

"We do not anticipate any changes with our coaching staff," coach Brian Billick said after speaking to Lewis on Saturday.

Lewis' defense has finished second in the league for three consecutive seasons and spearheaded the Ravens' Super Bowl XXXV run.

Losing Lewis is a critical hit for a Ravens team looking to rebuild its defense. With a salary cap crunch looming, the once-dominating defense could lose as many as six starters.

Defensive tackle Tony Siragusa has retired, and the Ravens will ask safety Rod Woodson, defensive tackle Sam Adams and defensive ends Rob Burnett and Michael McCrary to take pay cuts because of high salary cap numbers, or be cut. Those pending changes are compounded by the fact that the Ravens likely will lose outside linebacker Jamie Sharper in the expansion draft and cornerback Duane Starks in free agency.

With Lewis leaving, the Ravens have lost four coaches in the past 2 1/2 weeks. Because the Ravens had prepared for Lewis' departure to Tampa Bay, they are poised to name Nolan, a Baltimore native, as Lewis' successor and have hired Oakland Raiders quarterbacks coach David Shaw to take over as receivers-quarterbacks coach.

M. Lewis timeline

Key dates in Marvin Lewis' efforts to become an NFL head coach and his decision yesterday to leave the Ravens as defensive coordinator for the same post with the Washington Redskins.

2001

Jan. 15: Ravens grant the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions permission to speak with Lewis about their vacant head coaching jobs, but the clubs are forbidden from talking with Lewis until after the Super Bowl on Jan. 28.

Jan. 24: Despite saying he had planned to interview Lewis after the Super Bowl, Lions president Matt Millen hires San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.

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