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Inside The NFL

Jan. 11, 1999
Jan. 11, 1999

Table of Contents
Jan. 11, 1999

Faces In The Crowd

Inside The NFL

NO THANKS
Sherm Lewis rejects a plan to aid black coaches

This is an article from the Jan. 11, 1999 issue

While six coaching jobs stand tantalizingly vacant before him,
Packers offensive coordinator Sherm Lewis reads and hears the
names of the hot candidates yet doesn't find his own among them.
With the possible exception of fired Eagles coach Ray Rhodes,
not one of Lewis's black coaching brethren is listed either. And
the NFL's attempt to promote candidates, especially minorities,
who might be overlooked, partly by videotaping interviews of
them and sending the tapes to owners, doesn't impress Lewis. In
fact, it angers him. "It's a slap in the face," Lewis said last
week. "I will not participate in that."

By week's end the league had videotaped interviews with several
assistants (Giants defensive coordinator John Fox, who is white,
and secondary coach Johnnie Lynn, who is black, were among the
first) and hope to wind up with 25. These tapes allow owners to
see the faces and hear the ideas of some relatively obscure
assistants who might be suited for jobs as head coaches or
coordinators. The league is trying anything to break an
embarrassing streak: The last 19 coaching vacancies have been
filled by whites. The 1996 hiring of Tony Dungy by the Bucs was
the last minority appointment.

Lewis, who lost out to Chan Gailey for the Cowboys job last
February, objects to the taped interview because he thinks it
sets the league-aided candidates apart, as though they're not
good enough to stand on their own.

Offensive coordinators Brian Billick of the Vikings and Gary
Kubiak of the Broncos are among the assistants most often named
as likely to get hired. Both have already interviewed with the
expansion Browns, the only team allowed to interview assistants
whose clubs are still alive in the playoffs. "Where do some of
these names come from?" Lewis says. "Is it agents who get behind
certain guys? I don't know, but it's frustrating."

On Monday, however, that frustration might have abated slightly
when the Bears received permission to interview Lewis.

Buffalo's Mark Pike
CURTAIN FALLS ON A SPECIAL PLAYER

One of the great unheralded careers of recent times ended last
Saturday in South Florida when Bills special teams ace Mark
Pike--perhaps the leading special teams tackler in league
history--played his last game after 13 years in the NFL. "This
is it for me," the 35-year-old Pike said before Buffalo's 24-17
wild-card playoff loss to Miami. "I always considered my reward
to be a place on the team, and I'm fortunate to have lasted 13
years."

Pike, a defensive lineman and linebacker, hasn't played a
defensive snap in three seasons, but he carved a niche on
coverage teams. Most special teams standouts--such as Bill
Bates, a former Cowboy; Steve Tasker, a former Bill; and Bennie
Thompson of the Ravens--are defensive backs or receivers. A
seventh-round draft pick out of Georgia Tech in 1986, Pike piled
up 283 special teams tackles (Bates had 216; Tasker, 186;
Thompson, 179). Marv Levy, his former coach in Buffalo, called
the 6'4", 272-pound Pike "the best big-man special teams player
ever." And despite missing two games in 1998 with a torn biceps
tendon in his right arm, Pike capped his career with a 28-tackle
season.

The last player to walk off the field at Pro Player Stadium on
Saturday, a teary Pike said, "I can't believe it's over."

Dispatches
IS MATT MILLEN LION-HEARTED?

Fox analyst Matt Millen told SI last Friday that he has had
discussions with the Lions about a high front-office position but
doesn't have a formal offer from the club. He sounded as if he
would be torn if he had to decide whether to forsake the comfy
life in the broadcast booth....

Coach Tony Dungy says the Bucs will almost certainly enter next
season with Trent Dilfer at quarterback, but you get the feeling
that Dungy would consider making a switch if a better passer
were available. "We have to be more efficient throwing the
ball," he said of Tampa Bay's 52% completion rate, the third
worst in the NFL....

Forget about a debate over who will quarterback the Dolphins
next season. Coach Jimmy Johnson told Dan Marino last week that
he wanted to discuss a contract extension--though it was largely
to soften the $7 million salary-cap hit that Miami is scheduled
to take on Marino in '99....

So much for fan apathy in Foxboro over the Patriots' move to
Hartford in 2001: In the past month the season-ticket waiting
list has grown from 10,000 to 58,000. Still, selling 6,000 club
seats in their new stadium at $4,000 a seat per year will be a
challenge.

The End Zone
IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE

The hoopla accompanying the rise from bench warmer to Pro Bowl
player continues for Doug Flutie. A Buffalo-area market has
introduced Flutie's Favorite Sub, with a portion of the proceeds
going to the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. Asked why
he's endorsing the sandwich, Flutie said, "I was a sub once, too."

Send your pro football questions for Peter King's Mailbag and
read more from Paul Zimmerman at www.cnnsi.com.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER After watching Brett Favre (4) win three league MVPs, Lewis wants the chance to show his stuff. [Brett Favre and Sherm Lewis]