BENGALS Cincy looks outside for coach
Owner Mike Brown still refuses to hire a general manager.
CINCINNATI (AP) -- For the first time during their 12-year run as the NFL's worst team, the Cincinnati Bengals are looking outside the organization for head coach candidates.
The Bengals have gotten permission to talk to Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, and reportedly also have approval to interview Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis.
St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Lovie Smith also could be on the list of candidates, in part because of his ties to the organization. Smith was an assistant to former Ohio State coach John Cooper, who is a Bengals consultant.
It's a break with tradition for owner Mike Brown, who has hired three head coaches since 1991. All three -- Dave Shula, Bruce Coslet and Dick LeBeau -- were Bengals assistants when they got promoted.
It's unclear whether anyone from another organization would be interested in working for Brown, who refuses to bring in a general manager or give his head coach control of the roster.
"We want what everyone wants: a winning coach," Brown said. "We aren't restricting ourselves to just looking at offensive people or defensive people. We will probably interview a number of people -- both people who are here now and from the outside."
LeBeau was fired Monday after a 2-14 season that was the worst in team history. Defensive coordinator Mark Duffner and running backs coach Jim Anderson are under contract for next year and will get interviewed for the job.
Lewis, Smith and Jim Anderson are black, meaning that the Bengals would be more than fulfilling the new NFL guidelines requiring teams teams with coaching vacancies to interview minority candidates.
Steelers coach Bill Cowher confirmed Tuesday that Mularkey can talk to the Bengals. Although Pittsburgh is in the playoffs, revamped NFL rules allow assistants to be interviewed if their teams give permission.
"We'll adhere to all the guidelines the league has set," Cowher said.
A Redskins spokesman couldn't confirm whether the Bengals got permission to interview Lewis, who was defensive coordinator of Baltimore's Super Bowl championship team.
Since he took control of the team in 1991, Brown has always turned to someone familiar when he needed a head coach -- until now.
He fired LeBeau in part because of the crumbling fan support. The last three home games drew the three smallest crowds in Paul Brown Stadium history.
By resisting calls to bring in a general manager, Brown has left himself only one avenue for winning back fans and his disillusioned players: create a stir with his coach hiring.
"We do need a change that gets the players' eyes and kind of ignites some energy into this whole thing," right tackle Willie Anderson said.
Some players took advantage of LeBeau's easygoing demeanor, contributing to the team's implosion, according to Pro Bowl fullback Lorenzo Neal and quarterback Jon Kitna.
"That's who he was," Kitna said. "I think there were some guys who took advantage of him. He had his own style, and the one thing you've got to be in this league is your own self."
Wyche and Coslet were more outspoken as head coaches, but their authority was diminished by their limited power over the players. Kitna hopes that the next head coach has a tough demeanor and the authority to back it up.
"I just want a coach who's had success in this league, who's been there and is going to be a no-nonsense coach," Kitna said.
"By that, I don't mean an iron-fist coach, but what he says is going to happen. Regardless of who you are, you're going to be subject to the same discipline if you don't adhere to the things that he's preaching."
Brown isn't concerned about what the players think is needed.
"I'm not so interested in pleasing the players as having the players please me and the fans," Brown said.