M. Lewis exhibits his staying power; Other teams calling, but defensive coach might return to Ravens


The boxes adding to the clutter in Marvin Lewis' office suggest that the Ravens' former defensive coordinator is packing before he leaves town.

Don't think Lewis is not getting around. He has been offered a chance to lead the defense in Philadelphia. Carolina coach George Seifert also wants him. The Pittsburgh Steelers would not mind having him back. The Cleveland Browns may try to lure Lewis after interviewing him today.

Yet Lewis, one of the 13 assistants who became jobless when the Ravens fired coach Ted Marchibroda, would rather stay in Baltimore. And until the Ravens hire a new coach, Lewis intends to hurry up and wait. Ravens owner Art Modell has told Lewis he could be retained as part of the team's new coaching staff.

"The dilemma for me is who is the head coach going to be [here] and what will my role be?" Lewis said. "Mr. Modell has given me the opportunity to stay here, and that's what I'd like to do. I'm going to sit tight and see how things work out here.

"This is a decision me, my wife and my family had to make together, and that's what we've decided. We feel good about it."

Lewis has come a long way in three years. Back in January 1996, he was the relatively unknown linebackers coach of the Steelers. Pittsburgh gave Lewis his first coaching job in the professional ranks in 1992, after Lewis had spent 11 seasons coaching at the collegiate level.

Lewis got a chance to become a defensive coordinator with the Ravens, mainly because the team, thrown into disarray by its move here from Cleveland, waited until mid-February 1996 to hire Marchibroda. By that time, most of the prime defensive coordinator candidates were employed, leaving the door open for a guy like Lewis.

Salary cap problems left the Ravens with a dearth of talent on a woeful defense in 1996. But over the last two years -- thanks largely to rapid maturation of drafted players such as linebackers Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware and the addition of free agents like end Michael McCrary -- Lewis helped the Ravens field one of the league's most improved defenses.

Other potential employers certainly have noticed. New Philadelphia coach Andy Reid offered Lewis the Eagles' defensive coordinator's job this week. Seifert is constantly in touch to inquire about Lewis' plans. Even Dom Capers, considered to be a leading candidate to take over in Kansas City, would like to reunite with Lewis someday soon. They worked together extensively in Pittsburgh.

As Chris Palmer reminded reporters when he interviewed for the Ravens' top job earlier this week, January is hard on unemployed head coaches and equally hard on the scores of assistants without jobs.

"It's like playing musical chairs," Palmer said. "The music is playing for all of these assistants, and when the music stops, you want to have a chair to sit in. Sometimes, that means you have to take the job you might not really want on Tuesday, because the job you want might not be there two days later."

Lewis, 40, probably is not destined for Pittsburgh, where Jim Haslett -- who interviewed here for Marchibroda's job on Monday -- figures to return as defensive coordinator. But by waiting until the Ravens settle on a new coach, Lewis most likely will not enjoy the options that lie before him at the moment.

The Ravens are determined to make a serious run at Minnesota offensive coordinator Brian Billick. The problem is, Billick cannot talk with the Ravens until the Vikings' season ends. That figures to take two more weeks.

"It's hard, because you get offered [jobs] by friends and people you respect, but it might not be the best thing for you and your family," said Lewis, who was in Philadelphia this week looking at houses -- just in case.

Lewis would like nothing more than to stay in the Finksburg home that he and his wife, Peggy, purchased three years ago.

"Our daughter is going into high school [this year], and we enjoy living here. I enjoy the players and the people here," Lewis said. "It will be fun to see the smiles on people's faces around here when we start printing playoff tickets. I've seen that in Pittsburgh.

"When a coach leaves a team, he's leaving part of his family. There are the other coaches you've spent 18 hours a day with, the players you've spent 12 hours a day with. You bleed with them, you sweat with them, you laugh and cry with them. I'd like to remain a part of that here."

Pub Date: 1/16/99

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