The Washington Redskins finalized their “Dream Team” yesterday, hiring Marvin Lewis, perhaps the NFL’s top defensive coordinator, just one day after he appeared set to re-sign with Baltimore.
Lewis will run Washington’s defense while new coach Steve Spurrier, one of the college game’s most creative strategists during 12 years at Florida, handles the offense. Lewis was owner Dan Snyder’s target as soon as his deal to become Tampa Bay’s new coach broke down Friday.
Spurrier already is the game’s highest-paid coach with a five-year, $25million contract. Lewis now becomes the highest-paid assistant with a three-year deal that pays him in excess of $800,000 this year with the chance for significantly more in incentives.
Washington’s initial offer was believed to be for $850,000 with $500,000 more possible from incentives. The Redskins apparently upped those figures to capture Lewis.
Lewis will be introduced today at a 5p.m. news conference.
A deal to keep Lewis in Baltimore appeared done Saturday night. He had an agreement in principle with the Ravens, and he even was quoted in yesterday’s Baltimore Sun saying he was “at peace with this decision” to turn down Washington’s massive offer.
Spurrier, reached in the early evening at Redskin Park, would not comment because, he said, “At this time right now, the contract has not been signed.”
But Spurrier added, “We’re obviously hoping it gets done.”
The Ravens confirmed that Lewis would not be returning.
“I’m disappointed that whomever misled us about Marvin staying did that to the Ravens,” Baltimore owner Art Modell said through a spokesman. “Sometimes money talks louder than words, and this is an opportunity Marvin felt he had to take.”
The Ravens now will move forward with the coaching structure they planned when Lewis appeared headed to Tampa Bay. Wide receivers coach Mike Nolan, the Redskins’ former defensive coordinator, will take over Lewis’ vacated post.
Lewis, 43, is one of the NFL’s most respected coordinators. He has been a candidate for three head-coaching positions in the past year after guiding the Ravens to NFL 16-game records in 2000 for points allowed (165) and rushing yards allowed (970). His defenses have ranked No.2 in the league in each of the past three seasons.
The unpredictable stretch of events began last week when Lewis emerged as the top candidate to replace Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay. The Bucs, however, put him on hold for several days while trying to pry Jon Gruden from Oakland. When that didn’t work Lewis appeared headed for the Bucs.
That deal broke down at the last minute and the Redskins moved quickly to try to sign Lewis, whose contract with the Ravens was expiring. Washington’s initial offer easily would have made Lewis the game’s top-paid assistant, but the Ravens also made an earnest attempt to retain him. Late Saturday, he appeared certain to remain in Baltimore.
But the Redskins continued to pursue Lewis, and yesterday evening they finalized the deal with agent Ray Anderson.
Lewis becomes Washington’s fourth coordinator in as many years. He follows Nolan (who was fired after the 1999 season), Ray Rhodes (who led the Redskins to a No.4 ranking in 2000) and Kurt Schottenheimer (whose defense had a No.10 ranking last year). Spurrier spoke with Schottenheimer about returning and there was interest on both sides, but Schottenheimer ended up taking Detroit’s coordinator post.
Lewis inherits some of the NFL’s best talent on defense. Each starter except for lineman Kenard Lang and linebacker Shawn Barber is under contract. Second-year linebacker LaVar Arrington made the Pro Bowl this year, and third-year cornerback Champ Bailey played in the game as an alternate selection. The Redskins also have former Pro Bowl ends Bruce Smith and Marco Coleman, a talented tackle in Dan Wilkinson and two more standout corners in Fred Smoot and Darrell Green.