|Wednesday, February 6
Updated: February 7, 8:17 PM ET
Lewis 'a lock' -- unless Davis reconsiders
By Len Pasquarelli
The search for a new head coach in Tampa Bay isn't culminated yet but it is concluded.
Several prominent league sources told ESPN.com Wednesday night that Buccaneers ownership has abandoned its pursuit of Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden, will turn its full attention now to Marvin Lewis, and could have an agreement in principle completed with the Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator as early as Thursday.
The official introduction of Lewis as successor to Tony Dungy, however, is not expected for at least a few days.
"Our expectation is that the team will spend the next couple days working with Marvin to ensure a top-flight coaching staff in Tampa Bay," said Lewis's agent, Ray Anderson of Octagon. "That's the way it appears this will proceed. But this is something for which Marvin has been preparing a long time. He's ready for the opportunity, believe me, and he'll accomplish great things."
ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports that Lewis will meet with the Malcolm Glazer family Thursday night, with the two sides working to finalize a contract in time for a Monday announcement.
The St. Petersburg Times reported Thursday that the Bucs' talks for the rights to negotiate with Gruden broke down because Raiders owner Al Davis wanted several No. 1 draft picks, defensive tackle Warren Sapp and cash.
Anderson emphasized that neither he nor his client have been officially apprised that the job will go to Lewis. But he has strong sources within the Tampa Bay hierarchy, Anderson pointed out, and feels certain that Lewis will be the new coach.
One team source said that Lewis is "a lock" now "unless Al Davis does a 180 (degree) reversal."
There have been no contract negotiations, but Anderson said that a deal can be struck in quick fashion once Lewis meets with Tampa Bay management.
"We have a great relationship with (Bucs general manager) Rich McKay," said Anderson, who also represents Tony Dungy, dismissed by Tampa Bay after a first-round playoff defeat. "We trust that Rich knows the market, feels comfortable dealing with us, and that we can bring this thing to a speedy conclusion."
The Bucs spent part of Wednesday trying to reach an arrangement with the Raiders that would have freed Gruden from the final year of his contract and permitted him to go to Tampa Bay. But the two sides never got close to an agreement and Bucs officials decided Wednesday night that it was fruitless to continue those talks.
Gruden met with Raiders owner Davis on Wednesday afternoon for several hours, but he was unable to soften his boss' convictions about him coaching in Oakland for the 2002 season. Bob LaMonte, the agent for Gruden, had flown to Tampa earlier this week in the event negotiations with the Bucs would be necessary.
Said one Tampa Bay official: "You would start a conversation with (the Raiders), feel maybe you were making some progress, and wind up frustrated at the end. There was no sense in pursuing it indefinitely. Sooner or later, you say, 'Enough is enough. We're ready to move on.' "
McKay established Lewis as his frontrunner late last week, after also interviewing Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and former Washington Redskins coach Norv Turner, who served as San Diego's offensive coordinator in 2001. McKay recommended Lewis to the Glazer family but the Bucs owners urged him to take one more shot at landing Gruden.
The team was embarrassed, of course, when Bill Parcells backed out of a non-binding agreement to succeed Dungy two weeks ago and felt it needed a high-profile replacement.
Lewis, 43, is regarded as one of the NFL's top defensive minds.
Under the stewardship of Lewis, the Baltimore defense set a record in 2000 for the fewest points allowed in a 16-game season. Lewis broke into the league in 1992 with the Pittsburgh Steelers, then moved to the Ravens in 1996.
He interviewed for the Buffalo Bills head coach's job after the 2000 season and for the vacancy in Carolina nearly two weeks ago.
As reported several times by ESPN.com in the past week, Tampa Bay management is cognizant of the importance of assembling a solid offensive staff, particularly given the chronic problems the team experienced under Dungy on that side of the ball. Lewis was told during his interview to prepare a list of offensive assistants in whom he would be interested.
The Bucs' front office has taken a proactive approach on the staffing issue. The team has declined to allow defensive assistants to interview for openings with other teams. ESPN.com reported on Tuesday that former New York Jets offensive line coach Bill Muir already has been hired by the Bucs in the same capacity.
According to a story in Thursday's Tampa Tribune, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements and Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach Brad Childress are candidates to become the Ravens' offensive coordinator.
Mortensen, however, reports that former University of Indiana coach and Washington Redskins assistant Cam Cameron is the leading candidate to become the Bucs' offensive coordinator.
In earlier negotiations with the Bucs, Lewis proposed Cleveland Browns wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie for that post, according to the Tribune story, but the Bucs nixed that idea. Lewis reportedly told the newspaper Wednesday that he would try to recruit Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis for the position, but Weis reportedly agreed to a two-year extension Wednesday to remain with New England.
Meanwhile, Mortensen reports that Ravens coach Brian Billick will promote Mike Nolan to replace Lewis as Baltimore's defensive coordinator.
Nolan, the wide receivers coach for the Ravens last season, is a former defensive coodinator for the Giants and Redskins.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from ESPN.com news services was used in this report.