Tampa Bay's bid to lure Bill Walsh back to coaching fell short yesterday. Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse said Walsh has decided to continue his TV career.

Culverhouse said in a statement he and Bucs administrator Phil Krueger had discussed the job opening with Walsh, who led the 49ers to three Super Bowl championships before retiring in early 1989. "Bill told us that he feels that to continue these discussions would not be fair to his ongoing relationship with NBC," Culverhouse said.

Now Culverhouse is expected to talk with fired Eagles coach Buddy Ryan, and Krueger said permission had been obtained to interview Bill Belichick, the champion Giants' defensive coordinator. Belichick, though, first has a date in Cleveland today, about the Browns' head coaching vacancy.

Although Walsh reportedly had already recommended Raiders assistant Mike White, The National sports daily quoted a source as saying Culverhouse had offered Walsh a deal worth $2 million per year to be both coach and general manager. Walsh's original NBC contract expired after this month's AFC title game.

"I visited with Mr. Culverhouse," Walsh said in USA Today. " . . . and the Buccaneers coaching job did come up. I do fully expect to remain at NBC."


Buffalo, taking a lesson from its Super Bowl rival, will try to build a physically dominating defense next season. "I don't think our defense is a dominating, shut-you-off defense of the nature of the Giants," Coach Marv Levy said. "We can get physically stronger, and we will look to get physically stronger on our defense."


Look for the Giants (says Newsday) to leave TE Mark Bavaro off their 37-man Plan B protected list. His agent, David Fishof, said the Giants likely will take a chance because of Bavaro's injury problems and his desire to remain with New York. He faces offseason shoulder and knee surgery, going into the final, $750,000 year of his contract if he returns.


CB Dwayne Woodruff, last active player from Pittsburgh's Super Bowl years, said he won't be back. Upset with management, the 12-year pro, set to become a restricted free agent Friday, said he's contacted the Chargers, Rams and Raiders.


Jack Teele, 60, a 10-year Chargers executive after two decades in the Rams' front office, was fired abruptly by San Diego owner Alex Spanos.