SOURCE: LEWIS THE PICK

1-14-03, 2:45 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

MOBILE, Ala. _ A NFL source outside the Bengals said Tuesday Marvin Lewis is the club's next head coach. The club would not confirm the report. ESPN.com is also reporting the hire of Lewis.

Bengals President Mike Brown has made it a rule to attend the workouts during this key week of scouting, so it appears the earliest anything official would come is in the evening as the Bengals ended their search to replace Dick LeBeau after 15 days.

All indications are that the Bengals took quite seriously the candidacy of Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey after his four-hour interview with the Brown family Monday night. The gap in the announcement was interpreted that what was supposed to be a slam dunk for Redskins for Lewis had narrowed into a tight race with Mularkey.

Lewis, the Redskins defensive coordinator, has been anointed the frontrunner by the national media, and sources speaking with him Monday were confident he would get the job Tuesday. But muddying the

picture had been Mularkey's situation. He wouldn't comment on his contact with Jacksonville, but reports are he is to interview with the Jaguars some time Tuesday. Jack Del Rio apparently interviewed Tuesday morning, but Mularkey is seen as an extremely attractive candidate there because he is a Fort Lauderdale native who played at the University of Florida.

Brown has always been a fan of offensive head coaches, which made Mularkey's second interview more than obligatory. Brown is particularly enamored with the innovative way Mularkey has used Steelers wide receivers Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El. Brown thinks a guy like Peter Warrick has the potential to be used in such a manner.

But it turned out that Brown was more impressed with Lewis for a variety of reasons, among them his success in and knowledge of the Bengals' division, his organization, his ability to make big-name players perform, and his Bill Cowher-Brian Billick ties.

Former Jacksonville head coach Tom Coughlin is reportedly in the mix, but he is viewed by many as a longshot.

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