- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003

MOBILE, Ala. Marvin Lewis finally may have the NFL head coaching job he has long coveted.

Sources close to the Washington Redskins defensive coordinator said Lewis is extremely confident he will be hired by the Cincinnati Bengals for their vacant head coaching position, and an announcement could come as soon as today.

Bengals officials, led by owner Mike Brown, conducted one final interview with Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey last night in Mobile, where a contingent from every NFL team has gathered for this week's Senior Bowl.

But last night's interview was seen as a mere formality, a chance for Mularkey to have a second meeting with the Bengals, just as Lewis and former Jacksonville Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin did last week. League rules prevented Cincinnati from meeting more than once with Mularkey until after the Steelers were eliminated from the playoffs on Saturday.

With that final interview out of the way, Brown appears ready to make a decision, and sources around the league expect Lewis, who has come close to becoming a head coach both in Tampa Bay and at Michigan State in the last year, to get the call.

"It looks like he's going to get it, but until he does, you never know," said Redskins coach Steve Spurrier, who spent the day with most of his staff at the South team's Senior Bowl practice. "For Marvin's sake, I hope he gets it. He deserves it. He's an excellent coach. He's paid his dues in this league. He deserves to be a head coach."

Lewis, who was hired away from the Baltimore Ravens by Spurrier last winter to become the Redskins' fourth defensive coordinator in four years, was not with the Washington contingent yesterday. He attended the North team's practice across town and was conspicuously spotted wearing street clothes, nothing emblazoned with the Redskins' logo.

Lewis has flown to Cincinnati twice since the end of the regular season to meet with the Bengals, including his follow-up interview Thursday and Friday. Coughlin, who was fired by the Jaguars at the end of the season, also made two trips to Cincinnati and was originally considered the front-runner to replace Dick LeBeau.

But sources said Coughlin would only take the job if Brown agreed to make wholesale changes to his franchise, which just completed its 11th straight losing season with a league-worst 2-14 record. Brown also employs the NFL's smallest scouting staff, has forced new head coaches to hang onto old assistants and has been unwilling to spend money on top-tier players, all sore spots with Coughlin.

Lewis is said to be concerned about those issues as well, but sources said he is willing to phase in the changes over the course of several seasons instead of demanding they all be taken care of immediately.

The Redskins have been expecting Lewis to leave almost since the day they paid him close to $900,000 to come to Washington, a league record for an assistant coach. Once the Bengals hiring becomes official, Spurrier is expected to promote linebackers coach George Edwards to defensive coordinator, though Spurrier also said he plans to take more control over the defense in his second season.

"There's a good chance we're going to promote someone from within our staff," Spurrier said yesterday. "It's been rumored, but I won't confirm it until the right time."

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