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Upward mobility

Marvin Lewis poised for head coaching gig

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Posted: Friday January 19, 2001 7:19 PM

  Marvin Lewis Marvin Lewis is already on the candidate list for head coaching vacancies in Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo. AP

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -- Two years ago, the Minnesota Vikings had an outstanding assistant coach who wanted to get them through the NFL playoffs before allowing himself to think about another job.

Soon after the Vikings' postseason run ended, Brian Billick was rewarded for his fine work by being offered the head coaching job for the Baltimore Ravens.

Now, as Baltimore moves closer to its Super Bowl matchup with the New York Giants, Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis is operating under the same circumstances Billick did during his final days in Minnesota.

Lewis has been granted permission by the Ravens to talk after Super Bowl XXXV with the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns about their head coaching vacancies.

Speaking from experience, Billick has provided Lewis advice on how to cope with working for one team before possibly leaving for another.

"I think I have as good a perspective on that as anybody. I've tried to be a resource for Marvin as best I could, to help him in an environment that's new to him," Billick said. "Mainly, to put his mind at ease. I'm being a little self-serving here, because it helps him keep his focus on the job at hand, which is the best way to bring about the very thing he wants to happen."

Now in his fifth year as the Ravens' defensive coordinator, Lewis is conceivably on the brink of having a team to call his own. He was a respected assistant coach before this season, but his resume looks even better after a year in which his record-setting defense enabled Baltimore to earn a place in the Super Bowl.

"He's definitely head coaching material," Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister said. "He's a well-organized, well-spoken man who know how to address the team."

Lewis, 42, has strived to be an NFL head coach ever since he broke into the league in 1992 as the Pittsburgh Steelers' linebackers coach. His quest hasn't changed, but his focus this week is to find a way to stop a New York offense that buried Minnesota last week with 34 points in the first half alone.

"Am I encouraged? Yes, possibly," Lewis said Thursday of his prospects of moving up. "When that comes, we will look toward that. It's something I can't worry about now. Right now, I am just trying to keep my players' attention, and my attention, on the task at hand."

Ravens veteran safety Rod Woodson smiled when asked to assess Lewis' potential as an NFL head coach.

"I've known Marv since he was a rookie coach in Pittsburgh. He's come a long way," Woodson said. "I think his understanding of the game, the way he relates to the young players, is outstanding.

"Everybody's happy for Marvin. It's a great opportunity. But we can't dwell on it, and Marvin can't dwell on it. He has to keep coaching, and we have to keep on playing."

If Lewis does indeed get an offer, Billick will be delighted to vouch for his faithful assistant, even though the Ravens stand to lose one of the best defensive minds in the game.

"You'd like to keep him," Billick said, "but it would be foolhardy to think you could."


 
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