Lewis huddles after Coughlin breaks

1-9-03, 6:35 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Talk about your basic "Power meeting."

Former Jacksonville head coach Tom Coughlin and the Bengals met in Cincinnati for the second time in six days Thursday afternoon, and various media reports said that they were to meet as early as Thursday night with Redskins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis for his second interview, but no later than Friday morning.

Coughlin left Cincinnati mid-afternoon and couldn't be reached for comment. Coughlin's agent had no comment.

Although the meeting was much shorter than the initial eight-and-a-half-hour summit, indications are that Coughlin is still in a derby that also includes Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. In-house candidates Jim Anderson and Mark Duffner also interviewed for the job, but are thought to be longshots to the three outsiders.

Coughlin, who acted as the Jaguars coach and general manager for the past eight seasons before being fired last week, said after Friday's meeting that he would have to think about a role in which he would be sharing power with Bengals President Mike Brown.

Brown is thought to be coping with the same dynamic. He is mulling hiring a head coach who has had the

kind of sweeping power that no other Bengals' coach has had here. Coughlin may be a tough hire for Brown, who was there when the franchise was founded partly on the premise that the Brown family has the ultimate say.

But Brown has also showed signs that he is willing change some things to get the team out of this dozen-year playoff drought.

And Coughlin has some ideas. Several media reports Thursday said that Coughlin wanted to pitch to Brown "an action plan," a comprehensive agenda that encompasses all phases of the operation, which includes support staff as well as coaching, detailing "additions and alterations."

One of the biggest issues with both Coughlin and Lewis is no doubt the size of the scouting staff. The Bengals have the smallest personnel staff in the league and rely on their assistant coaches to do the bulk of the post-season scouting leading up to the April draft, which requires such a heavy travel schedule that critics say it takes away from their football planning.

Coming from a personnel department that is more than double the Bengals' size, Coughlin is probably not going to want his coaches on the road that much.

Lewis sent mixed messages on the subject last week. He said he embraces the idea of coaches getting involved in scouting and said he thought he could find common ground with Brown on the issue.

But he was also quoted as saying, "You can't have coaches on the road scouting after the season. That just doesn't work. Nobody else does that.""

A clear frontrunner has never really emerged after all three gave strong initial interviews. Brown is said to have liked Lewis' presentation, Coughlin's track record and Mularkey's creativity, and apparently the family feels that any of the three would be solid hires. But no doubt the decision will come down to who wields how much power.

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