Bills tab Titans' Williams to succeed Phillips
Updated: Friday February 02, 2001 6:24 PM
By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
New Bills GM Tom Donahoe informed runner-up candidate Marvin Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens' defensive coordinator, of the news via telephone about 1 p.m. ET, according to a source.
Williams interviewed with Buffalo on Friday and overcame the two leading candidates, Lewis and Giants defensive coordinator John Fox, on the strength of a strong interview, the source said. It is also believed the Bills leaned toward Williams due to his more modest salary requirements.
Williams will be in Buffalo on Friday to be formally introduced to the media, an NFL source said.
Williams' hiring was considered a surprise, as he was going up against the defensive coordinators -- Baltimore's Marvin Lewis and New York Giants John Fox -- of the two teams that met in the Super Bowl.
Lewis was considered the initial front-runner because he carried the best credentials, overseeing what many considered to be the NFL's top defense of all time. This past year, the Ravens allowed the fewest points in a 16-game season and held the Giants offense to no points in Baltimore's Super Bowl victory.
It was considered a plus, too, that both Lewis and Fox were with Pittsburgh when Donahoe served as the Steelers' director of football operations.
Also in the running was ex-Bills defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, who joined the New York Jets last month.
Under Williams, the Titans defense finished first in the NFL in fewest yards allowed this past season.
Defensive coordinator in Tennessee for the past four seasons, Williams broke into the NFL as the franchise's first quality control coordinator in 1990 when the Titans franchise was based in Houston. He also worked as the team's linebackers and special teams coach.
Considered organized to a fault, Williams' stock rose dramatically with the Bills following his interview with Donahoe on Jan. 26. A day later, Williams pulled out of the running for the Cleveland Browns' head coaching position, which eventually went to University of Miami's Butch Davis.
Titans general manager Floyd Reese said Williams' past experiences groomed him to be a head coach.
"He's not just a one- or two-year wonder. He's somebody that has paid his dues and worked his way through," Reese said. "He's developed some really, really strong opinions about things that he believes you need to do."
Calling Williams organized to a fault, Reese added: "He's very, very organized, meticulous, hardworking, very bright. Depending on what you're looking for, he has an awful lot of very, very strong attributes."
Reports indicate that Williams' first move will be to bring with him Titans defensive backs coach Jerry Gray and appoint him as the Bills defensive coordinator.
Lewis' agent, Ray Anderson, was dismayed over the Bills' decision.
"We just are disappointed in the process and the lack of any consistent dialogue or communication during the process," Anderson said.
Anderson said that the Ravens approached Lewis, offering him a pay raise as a reward for helping the team win the Super Bowl. Anderson said Art Modell's offer did not include any monetary figure and did not sway Lewis from pursuing the Bills' job.
Lewis completed the second year of a three-year deal that paid him about $900,000.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.