Lewis defends 'Skins decision

Staying was `easy,' but money, Spurrier justify move to D.C.

February 12, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - Looking back on a week in which he had bounced from the Ravens to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, back to the Ravens and finally to the Washington Redskins, Marvin Lewis had some regrets yesterday.

But being the Redskins' new defensive coordinator/assistant head coach wasn't one of them.

"It was easy to say, `Yeah, I'll stay [with the Ravens].' Maybe a little bit too easy, and maybe not, as time went on, the best thing for myself," Lewis said after his Redskin Park news conference.

Ultimately, Lewis said it was the challenge of working with the Redskins' defense and new coach Steve Spurrier that led him to his decision.

Also playing heavily into Lewis' thought process was the substantial increase in pay he will receive. Lewis said the two-year, $800,000-a- season deal reportedly offered by the Ravens was not even close to what the team actually proposed. He also said the team never increased its initial offer following the last loss at Pittsburgh.

Just how important was money in Lewis' decision?

"That's got to be a factor," said Lewis, the defensive coordinator since the franchise moved from Cleveland six years ago. "You love the game, have a great passion for the game, but we also do this to take care of my children for the rest of their life."

Lewis signed a three-year Redskins deal with a reported base salary of $850,000 a season and incentives that could push it up over a million.

The Redskins and Lewis agreed to the contract Sunday, just one day after Lewis said he planned on remaining the Ravens' defensive coordinator after the Buccaneers backed out of naming him head coach when the owners did not approve his selection.

But following further reflection later Saturday evening and after the Redskins increased their offer Sunday afternoon, Lewis decided to head south.

Looking back, Lewis felt he did not handle things as smoothly as he could have.

"When I called Coach Spurrier at 8 in the morning [Saturday], I felt like I was going to be in Baltimore," Lewis said. "When I talked to [Ravens coach] Brian [Billick] about noon or so, he knew things were changing.

"I made the mistake. I should have just waited, but I was under a time frame."

Lewis said he also regrets canceling his meeting with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and Spurrier on Saturday. The Redskins, though, did not stop pursuing, continuing talks with Lewis' agent, Ray Anderson.

"The whole thing was I probably backed myself into a corner in saying I would come down there and visit with them early Saturday morning," Lewis said. "Then as time went on, the way to not have controversy was to stay put. The Ravens extended themselves to me to stay put, and I felt the love. That seemed like the thing to do.

"I didn't have a chance to pull back and talk to people. Obviously, the extent of the offer made by the Redskins continued to grow."

Lewis said he talked with Billick and linebacker Ray Lewis before making his final decision, and even encouraged his star pupil to "carry the torch." He also consulted Steelers coach Bill Cowher, Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy and Denver Broncos general manager Neil Dahlen, among others.

Lewis began his day at 5 a.m., making one final trip to the Ravens' complex in Owings Mills to pack up his belongings. Six hours later, he was headed to Redskin Park without speaking to owner Art Modell, who implied a day earlier that money influenced Lewis' decision.

Lewis, though, said he is hoping to talk with Modell later this week. `The hardest part was saying to Brian [senior vice president of football operations], Ozzie [Newsome], Mr. Modell that I was leaving, and to the players," he said.

The Ravens' loss is Snyder's gain. The owner gleamed when asked about his team's chances by combining Spurrier's offensive talents with Lewis' defense.

Said Spurrier: "I wanted to hire the very best defensive coordinator I could possibly hire, as did everyone in the Redskins' organization, and certainly Marvin is considered by many to be the best in the NFL. I can coach offense knowing the defense is going to be in good hands."

The players were echoing Spurrier's feelings.

"What makes the players work for him is that they have so much confidence in what he does because he does what he does so well," Redskins linebacker Shawn Barber said.

"You don't second-guess anything. Whatever calls he makes, you go with. There is no need to second-guess because he has had one of the top-ranked defenses the last several years."

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