- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 9, 2002

The Washington Redskins moved quickly yesterday to attempt to hire Baltimore defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis following Tampa Bay's 11th-hour decision not to make him the Bucs' coach.

Lewis, perhaps the NFL's premier defensive coordinator and a top candidate for three head coaching jobs in the past year, had not decided as of last night whether he would meet with Redskins officials, NFL sources said. The Redskins hope a meeting will come as soon as today, but it appears an offer could come regardless.

It will take an enormous contract to pry Lewis away from the Ravens, where he already was one of the game's highest-paid assistants. In Washington, Lewis would team with new coach Steve Spurrier, who doubles as offensive coordinator, to give owner Dan Snyder a sort of "Dream Team" overseeing on-field strategies.

Snyder already has made Spurrier the game's highest-paid coach with a five-year, $25 million contract. That deal came after Snyder fired coach Marty Schottenheimer just one season into a four-year, $10 million deal, though the owner recouped some of what he owed Schottenheimer when the latter became San Diego's coach.

The Ravens want to retain Lewis and apparently plan to make a very competitive offer to do so. That means the Redskins probably would have to make Lewis the game's highest-paid assistant. Recently signed Atlanta defensive coordinator Wade Phillips currently holds that title with a three-year, $2 million contract that is believed to pay him $625,000 this year.

Baltimore was ready to promote former Redskins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, the Ravens' wide receivers coach, to Lewis' spot if Tampa Bay completed its hiring. But Baltimore's top priority now is to re-sign Lewis, whose contract is expiring. That made it a formality when the Redskins asked for and received permission to speak to him earlier this week.

The Bucs backed off Lewis earlier in the day after the deal seemed all but done, the strangest twist in a coaching search that already had been rather messy. Tampa Bay fired popular coach Tony Dungy after losing its wild-card playoff game, certain it would sign Bill Parcells. But Parcells turned down the job, leaving the Bucs to settle on Lewis, put him on hold shortly while taking a shot at Oakland's Jon Gruden, and then suddenly reject Lewis.

Lewis, 43, rose to preeminence during the 2000 season when the Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV and their defense yielded the fewest points (165) in a 16-game season in NFL history. That defense also set the 16-game NFL record by allowing 970 rushing yards. Baltimore's defense has ranked second in total yards each of the past three years.

Lewis has spent the past six seasons as Ravens coordinator. Before that, he coached Pittsburgh's linebackers from 1992 to 1995 and helped guide some of the league's best defenses at that time.

Lewis' stock as a head coaching candidate was highest during the Ravens' run to the Super Bowl title, but by the time Baltimore's season finished and he could interview, his only possibility was Buffalo. This year Lewis was a candidate for Carolina's top spot before the Panthers hired former New York Giants defensive coordinator John Fox.

The availability of Lewis comes just one day after Spurrier said he was focusing on several candidates who are current NFL defensive backs coaches. One confirmed candidate has been Bill Bradley of the New York Jets, who spoke with Spurrier several times while the two were at the Senior Bowl last month.

Meanwhile, the Redskins apparently are interested in former Dallas linebackers coach George Edwards, whose contract expired and who is not being retained by the Cowboys. Edwards played for Spurrier at Duke from 1987 to 1989 and then was a graduate assistant under him at Florida in 1990 and 1991. Washington's available assistant positions are for a defensive coordinator, linebackers coach and secondary coach.

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