True colors revealed: green, and more green

February 11, 2002|By Mike Preston

NO ONE CAN blame Marvin Lewis for taking the money and running. Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder more than doubled his salary from a year ago and made him the highest-paid assistant coach in the NFL yesterday.

But in a league that has treated Lewis so unkindly -- degradingly at times -- the former Ravens defensive coordinator should not have engaged in similar emotional games with the Ravens before agreeing to a three-year deal with Washington that could pay him as much as $1.2 million in each of the next three seasons.

In a sense, you just expected more from Lewis, because Carolina recently stiffed him for a head coaching position and Tampa Bay used him as a pawn in a front office power struggle when the team backed out of hiring him as its coach Friday morning.

But Lewis' standards turned out to be the same as just about everyone else's in the NFL. Money talked, and he walked.

Lewis had talked a good game on Saturday. That's when he told The Sun he was staying with the Ravens because owner Art Modell, Ozzie Newsome, the team's senior vice president of football operations, and the rest of the front office had been loyal to him. He said he also wanted to end any doubt about his future because his family had been through an emotional roller coaster the past couple of weeks after his interviews with the Panthers and Buccaneers.

"I'm at peace with this decision," Lewis said Saturday after agreeing to return to the Ravens.

Peace, eh?

Or should he have said he was waiting for a bigger piece?

Such tranquillity must have had him tossing and turning all night long. According to a league source, Snyder kept the pressure on and was embarrassed by stories in The Sun yesterday saying he lost out on Lewis.

He made more proposals, probably offering to send Air Force One this time to bring Lewis to Washington instead of a single helicopter.

He offered Lewis more money, and Lewis walked to the door. He offered him total control of the defense, and Lewis opened the door. He gave him more incentives, and Lewis threw loyalty out of the door with the trash.

He took off his purple-and-black colors and traded them for burgundy and gold.

Superman never made a quicker transformation in a phone booth.

Lewis did not return phone calls to his home last night. He is not going to answer calls unless they are from Snyder or Steve Spurrier, whom Snyder made the highest-paid head coach in league history with a five-year, $25 million contract.

But maybe it's good Lewis isn't talking. He has a credibility problem now. It will be interesting to hear his spin in Washington when he is introduced as the new coordinator and the media ask him about his reversal.

The cop-out will be that the media misquoted him or his quotes were taken out of context. That would be cowardly, untruthful, and would add to the hypocrisy.

No one also wants to hear about Lewis getting a chance to work with Spurrier or the Redskins having better defensive personnel or how working in Washington improves his chances of becoming a head coach.

Lewis should do everyone a favor, including himself, and step up to the podium and say he took the job because of the money.

Just say it. Money. Money. Money.

Everyone would understand. We all have houses, mortgages and families. We all want the best.

Snyder has himself a nice coach, but he is blowing salaries out of control. Lewis' new deal will become a barometer for other assistants. But what the boy genius owner doesn't realize is that you can't buy a championship through individuals, whether it's coaches or players. It's all about chemistry.

"Sometimes money talks louder than words," said Ravens owner Modell. "This is an opportunity Marvin felt he had to take."

Modell was disappointed, and he should have been. Nearly three years ago, when Modell fired former coach Ted Marchibroda, Lewis publicly criticized the organization, but Modell rehired him when new coach Brian Billick made the request.

Modell has spent the past two years lobbying other league owners to hire Lewis whenever there was a head coaching vacancy, and when Buffalo didn't hire Lewis last off-season, it was Modell who increased his pay by $250,000 to $560,000 for this past season.

On Saturday night, the Ravens offered Lewis a new two-year contract with incentives that could have paid him $800,000 a season. It was a good deal, and Modell made a wise decision by not trying to match the Redskins. Coordinators aren't worth that much.

The Ravens will have two new coaches on defense and a third one who has more responsibility in the secondary. They could lose as many as six starters off the defense from this past season. Now, they've lost the defense's brains in Lewis, who took the money and decided to run down I-95 to Washington with his loyalty left behind.

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