Bengals still looking at five

1-7-03, 7:40 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

All indications at the close of business Tuesday were that all five candidates for the Bengals' head coaching job are still in the mix.

That could change if the Bengals get uncomfortable with the timetable that takes them to Sunday, which would be the first chance they would have to do a followup interview with Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. And only if Pittsburgh loses to Tennessee in Saturday's playoff game because the Bengals can't contact Mularkey or offer him a job until the Steelers' season is over.

Redskins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said Tuesday that he has had some conversations with the Bengals since his interview last week. Gary O'Hagan, the agent for former Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin, had no comment. Also in the field are the club's own defensive coordinator, Mark Duffner, and running backs coach Jim Anderson.

"There have been some discussions, the kind of things you think would be discussed," said Lewis, who wouldn't elaborate but said he is still interested in the job.

The timetable not only affects the new coach's ability to hire his staff, but also

the assistant coaches on former coach Dick LeBeau's staff. Bengals President Mike Brown indicated when he fired LeBeau that he wants the coaches to fulfill their contractual obligations to the club until the new coach decides if he wants them on the staff.

That means Brown probably won't grant permission to other NFL teams to talk to coaches who are under contract for 2003 until he has a coach. League sources said Monday that the Bills are interested in offensive line coach Paul Alexander. And the Packers may want to talk to Duffner after making a change at linebacker this week. Packers coach Mike Sherman, who worked under Duffner at Holy Cross in the late 1980s, has courted Duffner before.

Brown did grant receivers coach Steve Mooshagian permission to interview for the head job at Sacramento State. Mooshagian, whose Bengals' contact runs out at the end of the month, plans to interview at the California school Wednesday and Thursday.

Mooshagian, 43, has been with the Bengals for four seasons and comes off a year the Bengals had four wide receivers with 40 or more catches for the first time in history. Also in the mix at Sacramento State is Panthers running backs coach Jim Skipper, former head coach of the San Francisco Demons of the XFL.

LeBeau has reportedly had a conversation with the Bills about being added to their staff, but they have been general in nature.

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