- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 15, 2003

FAIRHOPE, Ala. The Cincinnati Bengals yesterday ended Marvin Lewis' long wait for an NFL head coach position, and Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier wasted no time in elevating linebackers coach George Edwards to Lewis' vacated post as defensive coordinator.
"[Edwards is] a well-respected coach," Spurrier said here just outside of Mobile, where Senior Bowl practices are taking place. "Players play hard for him. I think they respect him. He'll add his own flavor and personality to the defense. We played pretty good on defense this year, and hopefully we can get a little better next year."
The hiring of Lewis, who led Washington's defense to a No.5 ranking in his only year with the club, followed more than two weeks of searching by the Bengals and a number of personal near-misses by the respected coordinator in recent years.
Lewis previously interviewed for posts in Buffalo, Carolina and Tampa Bay the past three years, nearly became the Bucs' new coach last year, and came very close to accepting an offer from Michigan State last month.
"I'll sleep pretty good tonight," Lewis said at a news conference. "My family, my friends, hopefully they have a sense now of relief, because they've gone through this more emotionally than I have. I'm glad it's over with."
Lewis was believed to have signed a contract very similar to the five-year, $7.5million offer he received from Michigan State, though he declined to confirm its terms.
The NFL now has three current black head coaches. Lewis' hiring came shortly after new rules were instituted, requiring that each team interview at least one minority candidate when looking for a head coach.
Patience was something Lewis knew he would have to have in the Bengals' search. He was the first candidate to interview, on Dec.31, and he had his second meeting with club officials late last week.
By that point, Lewis had emerged as the front-runner, ahead of early leader Tom Coughlin, the recently fired Jacksonville coach. But Lewis had to wait until after Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey had his second interview here Monday night.
"When [Bengals owner] Mike [Brown] and I talked [on Dec. 30], he kind of warned me of that," Lewis said. "He was going to take his time and be thorough. I was able to be patient."
The Bengals have been the NFL's worst team for more than a decade, but Brown opened the news conference by saying, "We have turned over, what I believe, is a new leaf. We are starting afresh."
Brown's history of being frugal, forcing holdover assistant coaches onto new head coaches and maintaining the league's smallest scouting staff, were issues for any candidate to consider. Lewis moved ahead of Coughlin in part because he was willing to win changes over time, rather than have them guaranteed up front.
Now Lewis expects to instill discipline, professionalism and confidence in the Bengals, intending to get what is viewed as a fairly talented roster to play to its potential.
"This is about hard work," Lewis said. "I don't think places win or lose. Obviously the coaches before me have worked hard as well. But I have a plan to do these things, to get the little things done, to bring the professionalism of our team up, to cultivate the guys we have, and to get everybody moving in the right direction."
Lewis declined comment when asked if any current Redskins assistants might be joining him in Cincinnati, but Spurrier said it was a possibility.
Redskins players reached last night were happy for Lewis even though his departure means a fifth defensive coordinator in as many years.
"It's a great achievement," defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. "There obviously aren't many black head coaches in the NFL. And regardless, he's earned it black or white. Actually, I was rooting for him."
The promotion of Edwards should provide continuity, and players last night reiterated their endorsement of the move for that reason.
"I sure hope [Edwards is promoted]," linebacker LaVar Arrington said before Spurrier made the move official. "I think he's the clear choice. He's got the respect of the players, that's for sure. And I think he was integral aspect of what happened this year."
Added Wynn: "I think it would be a great move. Somebody from the inside, there wouldn't be as much change. He's very knowledgeable from what I've seen, and the guys seem to take well to him. I think he'd be an excellent candidate."


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