Updated: 1-9-03, 3:25 p.m.
Updated: 1-0-03, 5:30 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Former Jacksonville head coach Tom Coughlin visited the Bengals for a second time Thursday and Redskins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis is headed to Cincinnati for a second interview as the club closes in on its search for a new head coach.
"The Washington Post," web site reported Thursday that Lewis is apparently going to meet with the team either Thursday or Friday as the Bengals seemingly look to name their ninth head coach before heading to Mobile, Ala., early next week for the Senior Bowl.
Indications are that Coughlin left Paul Brown Stadium mid-afternoon and that he is still in the race, but Coughlin's agent and the Bengals had no comment.
It's believed it is still a three-man sweepstakes that includes Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, but all signs are the club wants to make a decision as early as possible and that may take Mularkey out of it because the Bengals can't talk to him until Pittsburgh is eliminated from the NFL playoffs.
Thursday's interview with Coughlin is a critical chapter in his talks with the Brown family that began in an eight-hour session with club executives last Friday in Cincinnati. Coughlin, fired last week after eight years as the Jaguars
Coughlin, 55, is seen as the meticulous organizer who can bring discipline to a team where even their own players say they need it. As the only coach in Jacksonville's history, Coughlin led the Jags to two AFC title games in their first five seasons.
Strapped by salary-cap issues and injuries, the Jaguars have had three straight losing seasons. But Coughlin figures to bring much of his Jacksonville staff in what would be the biggest coaching turnover of the three outside candidates
Lewis, 44, is seen as the brightest head coaching candidate in the ranks of the league's assistant coaches. Lewis coordinated the Ravens' Super Bowl championship defense of two years ago that allowed a NFL-record low 165 points. In Lewis' first year in Washington this past season _ his first in 10 years out of the Bengals' old AFC Central Division _ the Redskins went from 10th in the NFL to fifth in defensive rankings.