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Inside the NFL

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Posted: Monday January 11, 1999 07:01 PM

  After watching Brett Favre win three league MVPs, Lewis wants the chance to show his stuff. John Biever

This week's topics:
No Thanks | Curtain Falls on A Special Player 
Is Matt Millen Lion-hearted? | It Takes One To Know One
Dr. Z's Forecast

No Thanks  

Sherm Lewis rejects a plan to aid black coaches

By Peter King

Sports Illustrated

While six coaching jobs stand tantalizingly vacant before him, Packers offensive coordinator Sherm Lewis reads and hears the names of the hot candidates yet doesn't find his own among them. With the possible exception of fired Eagles coach Ray Rhodes, not one of Lewis's black coaching brethren is listed either. And the NFL's attempt to promote candidates, especially minorities, who might be overlooked, partly by videotaping interviews of them and sending the tapes to owners, doesn't impress Lewis. In fact, it angers him. "It's a slap in the face," Lewis said last week. "I will not participate in that."

By week's end the league had videotaped interviews with several assistants (Giants defensive coordinator John Fox, who is white, and secondary coach Johnnie Lynn, who is black, were among the first) and hope to wind up with 25. These tapes allow owners to see the faces and hear the ideas of some relatively obscure assistants who might be suited for jobs as head coaches or coordinators. The league is trying anything to break an embarrassing streak: The last 19 coaching vacancies have been filled by whites. The 1996 hiring of Tony Dungy by the Bucs was the last minority appointment.

Lewis, who lost out to Chan Gailey for the Cowboys job last February, objects to the taped interview because he thinks it sets the league-aided candidates apart, as though they're not good enough to stand on their own.

Offensive coordinators Brian Billick of the Vikings and Gary Kubiak of the Broncos are among the assistants most often named as likely to get hired. Both have already interviewed with the expansion Browns, the only team allowed to interview assistants whose clubs are still alive in the playoffs. "Where do some of these names come from?" Lewis says. "Is it agents who get behind certain guys? I don't know, but it's frustrating."

On Monday, however, that frustration might have abated slightly when the Bears received permission to interview Lewis.

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Curtain Falls on A Special Player  

One of the great unheralded careers of recent times ended last Saturday in South Florida when Bills special teams ace Mark Pike--perhaps the leading special teams tackler in league history--played his last game after 13 years in the NFL. "This is it for me," the 35-year-old Pike said before Buffalo's 24-17 wild-card playoff loss to Miami. "I always considered my reward to be a place on the team, and I'm fortunate to have lasted 13 years."

Pike, a defensive lineman and linebacker, hasn't played a defensive snap in three seasons, but he carved a niche on coverage teams. Most special teams standouts -- such as Bill Bates, a former Cowboy; Steve Tasker, a former Bill; and Bennie Thompson of the Ravens -- are defensive backs or receivers. A seventh-round draft pick out of Georgia Tech in 1986, Pike piled up 283 special teams tackles (Bates had 216; Tasker, 186; Thompson, 179). Marv Levy, his former coach in Buffalo, called the 6'4", 272-pound Pike "the best big-man special teams player ever." And despite missing two games in 1998 with a torn biceps tendon in his right arm, Pike capped his career with a 28-tackle season.

The last player to walk off the field at Pro Player Stadium on Saturday, a teary Pike said, "I can't believe it's over."

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Dispatches: Is Matt Millen Lion-hearted?  

Fox analyst Matt Millen told SI last Friday that he has had discussions with the Lions about a high front-office position but doesn't have a formal offer from the club. He sounded as if he would be torn if he had to decide whether to forsake the comfy life in the broadcast booth....

Coach Tony Dungy says the Bucs will almost certainly enter next season with Trent Dilfer at quarterback, but you get the feeling that Dungy would consider making a switch if a better passer were available. "We have to be more efficient throwing the ball," he said of Tampa Bay's 52% completion rate, the third worst in the NFL....

Forget about a debate over who will quarterback the Dolphins next season. Coach Jimmy Johnson told Dan Marino last week that he wanted to discuss a contract extension -- though it was largely to soften the $7 million salary-cap hit that Miami is scheduled to take on Marino in '99....

So much for fan apathy in Foxboro over the Patriots' move to Hartford in 2001: In the past month the season-ticket waiting list has grown from 10,000 to 58,000. Still, selling 6,000 club seats in their new stadium at $4,000 a seat per year will be a challenge.

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The End Zone: It Takes One To Know One  

The hoopla accompanying the rise from bench warmer to Pro Bowl player continues for Doug Flutie. A Buffalo-area market has introduced Flutie's Favorite Sub, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. Asked why he's endorsing the sandwich, Flutie said, "I was a sub once, too."

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Issue date: January 11, 1999

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