The Bengals launched a new era on Jan. 14, when Marvin Lewis was hired as the ninth head coach in franchise history. "We've turned over a new leaf," said Bengals president Mike Brown, and the Bengals have had no other coach since. Lewis has become the franchise's all-time leader in tenure (15 seasons through 2017) and wins (125). At the time of his hiring, Lewis was the eighth African-American to be named an NFL head coach. Architect of the Baltimore Ravens' record-setting Super Bowl defense in 2000, Lewis received a broad mandate from Bengals ownership to implement his program, and the team finished 8-8, six games better than the 2-14 Bengals of 2002. Though the Bengals missed the playoffs — eliminated on the final weekend of the season — their six-game improvement was the biggest of any NFL team from '02 to '03. It was also the second-biggest one-year improvement in Bengals history. Lewis finished second to Bill Belichick, coach of the World Champion New England Patriots, in Associated Press voting for NFL Coach of the Year. The season included the four largest pro sports crowds in Cincinnati history (to that time), topped by 65,362 on Dec. 28 vs. Cleveland, and the highlight game was a 24-19 win on Nov. 16 over an unbeaten (9-0) Kansas City team. The Chiefs game started what would be a Bengals-record streak of 57 consecutive home sellouts in regular season and postseason. WR Chad Johnson, who led the AFC with 1355 receiving yards, signed a five-year contract extension in November. Prior to the season, the Bengals had the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft for the third time in team history, and the club chose Southern California QB Carson Palmer. Palmer was signed on April 24, just before the actual draft, as the Bengals took the option to execute an early signing. Palmer did not play as a rookie, as veteran Jon Kitna was the only NFL QB to play every offensive snap for his team, but Palmer would go on to set numerous Bengals passing records, beginning his playing career in 2004. QB Akili Smith, an unsuccessful first-round QB choice in 1999, was released on June 2. In an ironic twist for longtime Bengals followers, the club prior to the season hired Ricky Hunley as LBs coach. Hunley was a Bengals first-round draft choice as a player (LB) in 1984, but he never signed with Cincinnati, staging the longest holdout in franchise history before being traded to Denver on Oct. 9, 1984.