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Bengals, Lewis talk

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 3, 2003

CINCINNATI -- Washington defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis interviewed for the coaching job with the Bengals, who also plan to talk to Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey this weekend.

The club confirmed Thursday on its Web site Lewis met with owner Mike Brown and other family members Tuesday in Cincinnati. He was the first outside candidate interviewed. Mularkey will be interviewed in Pittsburgh on Saturday, a day before the Steelers' first-round playoff game against Cleveland.

Before going on vacation, Lewis told he was interested in coaching the league's worst team since 1991. The Bengals fired coach Dick LeBeau a day after their 2-14 season, the worst in franchise history.

"Looking at it from the outside, some people might say, "Don't go near that situation,' but that's not how I view it," Lewis said. "I think there's a lot of talent there, and it's a good opportunity for somebody."

The Bengals also are considering two of LeBeau's assistants: defensive coordinator Mark Duffner and running backs coach Jim Anderson.

FAME FLEETING FOR PARCELLS: Bill Parcells is being dropped from this year's Pro Football Hall of Fame ballot after becoming Dallas' coach.

Parcells qualified for the final ballot of 15 candidates because he was in the top seven in last year's voting, though he did not get enough support to be elected. Hall of Fame spokesman Joe Horrigan said Parcells disqualified himself by taking the Dallas job.

To be elected to the Hall, a coach must be out of football for good. Parcells was a finalist in 2001 and 2002. Last year he thought some voters bypassed him because they believed he would return to coaching. RATINGS INCREASE: Overall ratings jumped 4.4 percent this season, the biggest increase since at least 1994. The league's games drew an average national rating of 9.5, up from 9.1 in 2001.

Each rating point represents a little more than 1.05-million TV homes. Average viewership rose 5.1 percent to 14.4-million viewers a game, up from 13.7-million.

ABC's games averaged an 11.4 rating, up from 11, and Fox's 10.5 rating was up from 10.2. CBS improved from 9.5 to 9.6, according to a league estimate (network's final number won't be available until next week).

ESPN had the lowest average rating (7.4) but the biggest increase (17 percent) among the league's four network partners. Four of the season's top 14 TV shows are NFL games, when ranked by total viewers.

RECORD ATTENDANCE: The addition of a 32nd franchise in Houston helped the league break its season attendance record again. A total of 16,880,144 tickets were sold to the league's games, beating last season's record by more than 700,000.

The average attendance this season also was a record -- 65,938, compared with 65,187 in 2001. That represents 90 percent of capacity. Teams no longer are required to announce how many of those who bought tickets did not attend.

A record 89 percent of games, 229-of-256, were sold out in advance of the local 72-hour TV blackout deadline, topping the high of 86 percent in 2000.

OBITUARY: Allan R. Heim, one of the first front-office employees hired by the Bengals, died Wednesday of a heart attack at his Cincinnati home. He was 73. Bengals founder Paul Brown hired Mr. Heim in December 1967. He served as public relations director until he retired September 1994.

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