Closing the deal
Bucs expected to name Ravens' Lewis new head coachPosted: Saturday February 02, 2002 12:15 PM
Updated: Saturday February 02, 2002 11:28 PM
By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
NEW ORLEANS -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are close to naming Baltimore defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis their new head coach, with an announcement expected to come early this week.
Lewis, 43, will apparently beat out Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, who began his assistant coaching career in Tampa Bay in 1994, for the job of succeeding Tony Dungy. The Bucs fired Dungy Jan. 14 after six mostly successful seasons as the team's head coach.
Barring any last-minute surprises, Lewis and the Bucs are expected to open negotiations on a contract sometime this weekend. Bucs general manager Rich McKay has gone underground in his head coaching search, refusing to comment to the media regarding his candidates.
It is believed that McKay holds virtually all the decision-making power in terms of hiring Tampa Bay's new head coach.
Asked Saturday night if Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer will follow McKay's recommendation if Lewis is McKay's choice, Bryan Glazer said: "If that's Rich's recommendation, then that's what we'll do. It is a situation that Rich is in charge of, but we will all be a part of the decision."
The move will get the NFL back to three African-American head coaches, after the dismissals of Dungy and Minnesota's Dennis Green earlier this season. And it should avert any possible job actions by black assistant coaches frustrated by the slow progress of minority head coaching hires in a league that is more than 60 percent black.
CNNSI.com has learned that two media favorites for the job -- LSU head coach Nick Saban and Oakland head coach Jon Gruden -- are not candidates for the job. McKay has never been seriously interested in Saban, who led the Tigers to a surprise Sugar Bowl win and a top-10 ranking this season. And he has no interest in getting involved in what would surely be protracted and Byzantine negotiations with Oakland owner Al Davis regarding compensation for Gruden, who is entering the final year of his contract.
Lewis is believed to be the first candidate that McKay interviewed for the Bucs job. The two met for five hours on Tuesday in Atlanta. McKay interviewed former San Diego offensive coordinator Norv Turner and Mularkey on Wednesday in Tampa.
It was widely thought that McKay may wait until after the Super Bowl to see if any head coaching candidates emerged from the game. The only likely possibility was Rams defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, who served as Dungy's linebackers coach for five years (1996-2000). Smith, however, was considered a long shot all along.
Lewis has been considered one of the league's hottest head coaching candidates for the past two years. He interviewed for the Buffalo job last year, losing out to Gregg Williams, and he interviewed in Carolina last week, just before the Panthers hired John Fox.
With the Ravens, Lewis has molded one of the most successful units in the NFL over the past three years and was a huge part of a Super Bowl-winning team last year. Baltimore's defense has finished No. 2 in the league for three consecutive seasons and in 2000 set an NFL record for fewest points allowed (165) in a 16-game season.