1-15-03, 7:45 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
MOBILE, Ala. _ Marvin Lewis spent his first full day as Bengals head coach living a full day Wednesday here at the Senior Bowl as he interspersed interviews with rebuilding the Cincinnati coaching staff. Then he flew home to Maryland to prepare for Friday's Paul Brown Stadium news conference, which should really have some news.
Asked if the oft-criticized off-season conditioning program is going to be different, Lewis didn't stop there: "Everything is going to be different."
And, some different things kept happening Wednesday. Long-time Bengals assistant coaches with at least a year left on their contracts appeared to be looking for work during the practices here. Bengals President Mike Brown deferred comments to Lewis, a man Brown sees as the spokesman for this era and who may soon end up on billboards around Cincinnati as the new face of the franchise. With what is supposed to be a five-year deal averaging about $1.5 million per year, reportedly worth more than what he turned down at Michigan State last month.
"He's a good spokesman for the team. He represents us the way we should be represented," Brown said. "He does it well. Why not take advantage of that?"
Also on the agenda? Word is it could be the most extensive off-season conditioning program ever, and that Lewis could have the first of his two minicamps allowed new coaches before the late April draft.
And the Bengals wasted no time attempting to fill their coaching vacancies. "The St. Paul Pioneer Press," reported Wednesday that Vikings special teams coach Jay Hayes is the Bengals new defensive line coach, secondary coach Emmitt Thomas had reportedly emerged as the frontrunner for defensive coordinator, and the club got permission to talk to Carolina special teams assistant Darrin Simmons about the special teams job.
Hayes, 42, has been a NFL special teams coach since 1999 and
coached linebackers and special teams at Notre Dame, California, and Wisconsin before joining the Steelers in 1999. Hayes, who grew up near Lewis in the Pittsburgh area, hasn't coached the line but played it in college at Idaho and for two years in the USFL.
The team won't confirm or deny coaching moves until Lewis has his entire staff in place. Lewis spoke with various members of the old staff Tuesday night and Wednesday morning and had no comment on who is staying and who is going. Several names were flying back and forth in the rumor mill here during the day.
Bengals quarterbacks coach Ken Anderson, who reportedly has a year left on his contract, has been linked to talks with the Rams because of his friendship with head coach Mike Martz, but that was debunked late Wednesday night. With Lewis expected to revamp the defense, incumbent coordinator Mark Duffner, also believed to have a year left, was linked to talks with Green Bay as linebackers coach but the Packers have not been confirming that. Thomas, 59, who played with the Chiefs for 13 years, is often mentioned as a possible candidate for defensive coordinator after serving the role for Ray Rhodes in the late '90s with the Eagles. A Carolina official confirmed Wednesday night Simmons, 29, had been contacted about the special teams post.
Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski and running backs coach Jim Anderson have been widely reported to be favorites to stay, but the club won't confirm it. Offensive line coach Paul Alexander, a nine-year Bengals' veteran, has yet to resolve his status with the club and is believed to have a contract for '03.
"You need a mix of young and old,' said Lewis of the makeup of his staff. "I'm looking for great teachers, the best that can be found."
Lewis emphasizes he hasn't seen any tape of the Bengals, but imagines he'll stick with a 4-3 defense.
"We have to be able to stop the run and apply pressure on the football," Lewis said. "And that's in all areas. I don't want to worry about what was before with Dick (LeBeau) and Mark, but that's what I think is important."
Lewis seemed surprised about the questions regarding Brown giving him carte blanche to form his staff. Brown's reputation is that he keeps tight reign when it comes to coaching contracts and staffing. Lewis has seen it.
"I don't sense it, I know it is," said Lewis when asked about having the call. "That's what all the talks have been about from the start. He wants a head coach. That's what head coaches do."