- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Amid confusion that was reminiscent of his negotiations with the Washington Redskins 10 months ago, defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis weighed an offer last night to become Michigan State's new coach.

His indecision came at the end of a day in which there was contradictory information regarding his plans. First Michigan State officials believed Lewis was their new coach; later, ESPN reported that he had told Redskins officials he was staying. Then he spoke to Washington-area media and said neither scenario was true.

"I haven't made a decision about what's going on," Lewis said, adding he wanted to choose soon.

"I need to move forward with whatever it's going to be. I've got to visit with people who are important to me and we'll make the right decision for everybody."

The Spartans' offer was believed to be for five years and in excess of $1million annually, with a buyback clause to discourage him from leaving after a year or two and returning to the NFL.

Lewis wouldn't confirm the offer but those familiar with it said there was an understanding that the job was his to take. Lewis was wooed after he and his wife, Peggy, flew to East Lansing immediately after Sunday's 27-21 loss to the New York Giants to meet with Michigan State officials. Lewis was back at Redskin Park yesterday afternoon.

Michigan State officials appeared last night to be preparing a late push to convince Lewis to accept their offer. They initially seemed frustrated that he wasn't as close to signing as they thought, but such turnarounds are nothing new to Lewis.

In a three-day span in February, Lewis appeared all but certain to become coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to remain defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens and then to join the Redskins. He ended up becoming the NFL's highest-paid assistant with a three-year, $2.6million contract as Washington's defensive coordinator.

After signing that pact, Lewis said he "probably acted in haste" by telling Ravens officials he was staying. The sting of losing the Bucs' post contributed to that misstep, and he said he felt "kind of put under the gun" by the Ravens.

Asked last night if he learned anything from that bizarre series of events, Lewis replied, "There's no question."

Even if Lewis rejects the Spartans' offer, it won't be the end of questions regarding his future and turmoil in an organization where players have publicly started to beg for continuity. Washington has had four head coaches and four defensive coordinators over the past four years. This season the Redskins must win their last three games to match their 8-8 finishes in 2000 and 2001.

If Lewis stays put for now, there could be some more head coaching opportunities on the horizon. Another coveted college job opened up yesterday when UCLA fired coach Bob Toledo, and when the NFL season comes to an end, Lewis might be considered for a variety of openings. Teams like the Detroit Lions, Cincinnati Bengals, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks appear likely to part with their coaches.

There has been considerable speculation about Lewis' preference for an NFL job over one at the college level, but those close to him say that isn't necessarily the case. And he backed up that sentiment yesterday.

"There's a fulfillment whether it be the college or the NFL," Lewis said. "I want to be a head coach."

In Washington, Lewis has been a de facto head coach at times, helping coach Steve Spurrier, who makes $5million annually, adapt to the NFL.

Michigan State's key concern in hiring Lewis has been the possibility of a quick exit, but he seemed very careful to point out that he wanted to join the school for the right reasons. He spoke of making a long-term commitment to the Spartans, rather than using the job as a stepping-stone to an NFL post in the near future.

"Any decision I make has got to be based on what's the best thing for the next six, seven years," Lewis said. "I want to make sure when I make that decision it's the right decision. It's important for them to have somebody in that position that wants to be there and is going to be there for a while, and get their [football] program like their basketball program."

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