Bengals hire Lewis as new head coachPosted: Tuesday January 14, 2003 6:51 PM
By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
For Marvin Lewis, the waiting game is over.
The Cincinnati Bengals on Tuesday evening named him their ninth head coach, giving him the opportunity that had eluded him in the past.
"I'm excited to get started," Lewis said from his Mobile, Ala., hotel room, where he is scouting Senior Bowl workouts. "I'm happy for my family that it's over, and I'm happy for all my friends and peers who have kind of gotten caught up with it emotionally as well. It's almost been harder on them that it has been on me. Now I get a chance to prove them all right."
The Bengals introduced Lewis -- who served as Washington's defensive coordinator this season -- as their head coach at an 8:30 p.m. EST news conference, held at a resort hotel outside of Mobile.
Lewis' hiring raises the number of black head coaches in the NFL to three and ends his frustrating three-year quest for one of the top 32 jobs in football coaching. Lewis interviewed the past two offseasons in Buffalo, Carolina and Tampa Bay, but did not receive a job offer. He also turned down head coaching opportunities at Cal and Michigan State in the past two years, saying he wanted to pursue his goal of becoming an NFL head coach.
"Now I get the opportunity to prove myself as a head coach," Lewis said. "This time of the year, in another two weeks, we get to start all over getting ready for a new season. I want to get to work."
The Bengals and Lewis declined to discuss the terms of his contract. But Lewis was the front-runner in Cincinnati's coaching search since at least Thursday, when he conducted a second interview with team officials in Cincinnati. He beat out Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and former Jacksonville head coach Tom Coughlin, both of whom interviewed twice with the Bengals.
Lewis said he contacted Washington head coach Steve Spurrier early Tuesday evening to inform him of his imminent departure.
"I just talked to coach Spurrier 10 minutes ago," Lewis said. "He said congratulations and was real excited about it for me."
Lewis said Tuesday unfolded rather slowly in Mobile, but that Bengals officials were trying to contact him for much of the first half of the day. Lewis could not be reached because of a cell phone problem.
"I think they were trying to get a hold of me during the day and couldn't," Lewis said. "They were anxious to find me and get things done. But after practice, [team president/owner] Mike Brown and I went and sat down at the hotel and talked everything over.
"Mike said he had made up his mind, and said we needed to go through some things to make sure they were as we had discussed. We did that, and when we were done, we called in [team business development director] Troy [Blackburn] and got the deal done by mid-afternoon."
Lewis said he signed a contract and expects to travel to Cincinnati in the next few days to be formally introduced as Dick LeBeau's successor. The Bengals have been without a head coach since Dec. 30, the day after the team closed its regular season with a loss at Buffalo, dropping the Bengals to a franchise-worst 2-14 record.