Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, having received assurances about the seriousness of the Cincinnati Bengals’ interest, will interview for the Bengals’ head coaching job in coming days.
“I’d like to visit with them,” Lewis said in a phone interview yesterday. “They’ve got an opportunity to be successful.”
The Bengals cleared Lewis’ prerequisite for an interview by sending assurances through third parties that he is among their elite candidates for the position, sources close to Lewis said.
In fact, the Bengals might be focusing their search on Lewis and Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. Cincinnati apparently had not contacted any other candidates as of yesterday afternoon, despite heavy speculation that the club was seeking recently fired Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin.
A meeting between Mularkey and Bengals officials reportedly is set for Saturday in Pittsburgh. It was not clear when Lewis’ meeting might take place; yesterday he was planning to go on vacation as scheduled.
Lewis has told friends that he isn’t interested in interviewing for a post where the pool of candidates remains large. Furthermore, he is wary of clubs’ intentions this offseason because of the NFL’s new minority interviewing guidelines.
The NFL is trying to raise the exposure of black candidates by requiring teams to interview at least one minority while searching for a head coach. But Lewis already has plenty of exposure as one of the league’s premier defensive coordinators, and the rules seem to bring him only the threat of token meetings.
Lewis told friends in recent days that he was interested in Cincinnati’s opening but that the Bengals would have to convince him their intents were legitimate. Now owner Mike Brown must do some more convincing to get Lewis to accept an offer to replace Dick LeBeau.
Cincinnati has been the league’s worst franchise for more than a decade, not having made the playoffs since 1990. Brown has been known to force staffing and personnel moves, and the Bengals’ scouting staff is the league’s smallest.
However, Brown seems prepared to change some of that. Already he has said that the new coach can pick his own assistants and that more scouts might be hired. To that end, Brown also might hire a general manager.
Lewis doesn’t have a problem being involved in the scouting process because he already has done that in Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Washington. He believes that coaches should be an integral part of the talent evaluation process.
Lewis said the Bengals’ opening, like all jobs, seemed to have its “pluses and minuses,” adding that he is eager to hear Brown’s plans for the future.
“Hopefully as a head coach, you can affect some of those things,” Lewis said. “No place is as bad or as good as it seems.”
If the Bengals job doesn’t work out, there might not be another head coaching opportunity for Lewis this offseason. Jacksonville doesn’t appear interested in him at this point, and there probably won’t be any other openings around the league.
Washington’s defense ranked No.5 in the NFL in its first season under Lewis, who oversaw Baltimore’s record-setting and Super Bowl-winning unit in 2000.
Lewis was offered a five-year, $7.5million deal to become Michigan State’s coach last month. He turned it down after making the difficult decision that he had invested too much in pursuit of an NFL head coaching post to give up at that point.