Bucs general manager Rich McKay was ready to settle on Lewis early last week, but Tampa Bay executive vice presidents Joel and Bryan Glazer told McKay to exhaust all efforts in pursuit of offensive guru Gruden for fear of replacing one defensive-minded head coach (Tony Dungy) with another.
McKay spent this week in negotiations with Oakland owner Al Davis, but Davis' demands in terms of compensation were too high for McKay to continue talks.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, Davis wanted several No. 1 draft picks, Pro Bowl DT Warren Sapp and cash in exchange for the rights to talk with Gruden about filling Tampa Bay's head coaching vacancy.
CBSsportsline reported Davis made demands that supported the St. Pete Times' report, but they also said the Bucs never presented a formal counteroffer
Lewis, 43, and McKay are expected to meet in an undisclosed location on Thursday and an announcement naming Lewis as Tampa Bay's new head coach could come between late-Thursday and Monday because McKay wants to help Lewis put together an offensive staff before a press conference is called.
McKay hired former New York Jets offensive line coach Bill Muir on Tuesday, but one of the biggest sticking points will be agreeing on an offensive coordinator.
Lewis recommended Cleveland Browns wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie, but McKay was less than thrilled with that recommendation and told Lewis to keep searching. Tampa Bay's offense never finished a season ranked higher than 21st in the league under former Bucs head coach Tony Dungy (1996-2001).
New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was a possibility, but Weis agreed to a two-year extension with the Super Bowl XXXVI champions.
The Tampa Tribune is reporting both Pittsburgh quarterbacks coach Tom Clements and Philadelphia quarterbacks coach Brad Childress are candidates for Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator position.
Lewis, who appears to be fourth on Tampa Bay's list of head coaching candidates behind Bill Parcells, Steve Spurrier and Jon Gruden, would bring 10 years of NFL coaching experience to Tampa Bay.
Lewis is said to have a brilliant defensive mind and is considered a teacher in sound fundamentals.
Lewis' defenses have finished second in the league for three straight seasons and established a NFL record for fewest points allowed (165) in a 16-game season in 2000. Baltimore's defense led the Ravens to a Super Bowl XXXV championship in that same year.
Lewis entered the league as a linebackers coach in Pittsburgh and coached from 1992-95 under Bill Cowher. Lewis coached players like Greg Lloyd, Chad Brown, Kevin Greene and Levon Kirkland. Lewis also worked under defensive coordinators Dick LeBeau and Don Capers, two other NFL head coaches.
After his stay in Pittsburgh, Lewis went to work for the Cleveland/Baltimore franchise. Lewis stayed on as the team's defensive coordinator when Brian Billick became head coach in 1999.
Lewis first interviewed for a NFL head coaching job in 2001 with the Buffalo Bills, but Greg Williams landed the job.
Lewis interviewed for Carolina's head coaching job a few weeks ago, but New York Giants defensive coordinator John Fox got the nod over Lewis.
Lewis will become the second-consecutive African-American head coach in Tampa Bay if he is indeed hired, and it would make him currently the third African-American head coach in the NFL. Ironically, all three black head coaches had their head coaching experiences originate from Tampa Bay some way. Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy and New York head coach Herm Edwards are the two other African-American head coaches currently working in the NFL.
ESPN's Len Pasquarelli has not completely shut the window on Tampa Bay and Oakland coming to an agreement that would send Raiders head coach Jon Gruden to Tampa, but he did indicate Davis would have to do a 180 (-degree) in order for that to happen.
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