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Friday, January 20, 2006 

Spare the Rod

If Matt Millen were allowed to write the headlines for the Detroit papers as they introduced new Detroit Lions head coach Rod Marinelli on Friday, he might have come up with something like "Smashmouth," "Talking Tough," or "Ford Tough: Bad-ass GM hires Bad-ass Head Coach." Well, 2 out of 3 ain't bad. Millen had a statement to make by hiring Marinelli: Steve Mariucci was a sissy. Mission accomplished.

Rod Marinelli demonstrates

the controversial Diamond
Cutter tackling technique
The Detroit media ate up Marinelli's drill sergeant
impression and announced to the masses that the
Lions' head man will install discipline, toughness, and accountability. Never mind the fact that he has never been the head coach of a football team. Forget also that he was the Lions third choice behind Russ Grimm and Jim Haslett during a year with few legitimate head coach candidates. And definitely don't remember that the problems with the Detroit Lions go much further than attitude.

Lost in Marinelli's promises of power football and hard work was the fact that the Lions have big time questions all over the roster. The team is thin and plagued by players with character questions. The quarterback position is completely unsettled, the offensive line is embarrassing, the wide receivers and running backs underachieve, and the secondary and linebacker corps can't stay healthy. The only position group that played up to par last year was the defensive line. So what is the first thing that Matt Millen does to shore up this team with so many holes? Hire a career defensive line coach, of course! That experience will surely prove invaluable when trying to improve every other aspect of the team.

Somehow, Millen has temporarily distracted the Detroit media and fans away from the terrible job he is doing with the franchise. He has blamed the Lions' 5-11 record in 2005 on poor coaching and promised that the team will be better under his new coach. Of course, there is little blame to place on the man who hired the previous coaching staff or constructed the roster. With the Marinelli hire, Millen is quietly saying "Talent is not the problem; don't blame me." Unfortunately, the ruse seems to be working thus far.

As for Rod Marinelli himself, there are a couple reasons to be hopeful that he will be a terrific head coach:

- His former players adore him, including Simeon Rice, Warren Sapp, and Derrick Brooks. Said Brooks, "I think Rod, he made me a better player mentally. He really attacked my game in terms of leadership. Every single day, he challenged me to be a better leader."

- NFL coaches and executives from around the NFL have praised him. Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy said "Rod is a leader, he's a coach's coach, he's one of the best communicators I've ever been around, he's a motivator, and he is a great teacher." He has also been endorsed by Mike Holmgren, Monte Kiffen, and Rich McKay. Chris Mortensen is apparently inspired by him.

And a couple reasons to worry:

- Mike O'Hara writes: "As first press conferences go, Marinelli reminded me of Bobby Ross when he was hired in 1997. Ross believed in hard work and dedication. Marinelli presented that same tone." Yikes. Remind me, how did the Bobby Ross "tone" work out in Detroit? It's hard to believe that NFL athletes will completely buy- in to the military tough guy persona in this day and age. Ross now uses his military background at one of the few places where it might actually work, Army.

- Lynn Henning writes: "He will be tough on the field, reclusive away from it- think of former Iowa coach Hayden Fry- and hostile to any attempts by anyone to analyze him or shed light upon his past life, which he believes is absolutely no one else's business. He will display volcanic ire at media coverage that he believes, with conviction, is out of bounds. Radio talk-show bleating will incense him. Overly aggresive newspaper coverage will be viewed as a personal affront." Hayden Fry??? It reminds me more of Dick Cheney. Hostile? Volcanic ire? There is at least a 50% chance that Rob Parker and Marinelli come to blows in 2006.

So, will the tough-guy act lead to success in Detroit? I have to agree with the rest of the Noobsports family: time will tell on the hiring of Rod Marinelli. The team has some talent and plays in a weak division. He is well liked, and might be able to tap into the seemingly unlimited potential of guys like Roy Williams and Kevin Jones. Unfortunately for him, his grace period will be short. His boss is predicting immediate improvement and the fans are borderline mutinous. Best of luck, Rod.

And the picks...

AFC Championship Game: Steelers +3 1/2. The reasons I'm taking the Steelers? Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu. After Steve Smith, who else would you rather have on your team right now? Add in the Jake Plummer factor, and I'll take the points.

NFC Championship Game: Panthers +3 1/2. Not one, but two road underdogs??? My good buddy Derek, the man who introduced me to sports gambling, once told me "Only put money on underdogs that you believe can win outright, and then take the points as a bonus." Sound advice and who doesn't think the Panthers have a chance to win? Steve Smith has to be considered unstoppable until someone proves otherwise.



I'm still not sure what to think on the guy. I remember thinking Bobby Ross would be a coach that might get us winning with a few years. He and Mooch are the only two coaches that I remember ever getting excited about. I think coming to the Lions has to be one of the worst career moves an 'already' Head Coach can make. Who wants to work with the Ford sons, let alone the steriod dick of a GM in MM? Well, guys who don't have head coaching positions are the only ones I can think of....Herm Edwards coming to the Lions....never could be an option....Parcells....Tom Coughlin....no way. Until someone steps in and gets motown to play at least 14 games out of the season, we can never entice someone with respect to entertain us. Mike Martz - hmmm. His players love the guy. I would bet he could get a QB worth watching in Detriot within two years.

Marinelli says he wants to "sit down and chat" with Joey Harrington. I can only hope that it is a very short chat. Deal him away for Volek or Garrard (our starter for an experienced backup), and screw wasting another first round pick on a skill offensive position. I don't think anyone can come into motown and change the Harrington spiral. Just cut off the head and start new. Please. I got nothing against Joey personally, but the guy looks like a very scared and shattered man professionally. Look in that guy's eyes and you will see all you need to see for championships in motown with him at the helm. This may sound philisophical, and that might be the cure for Joey you say? Well the mentor Marinelli is thought of by that pupil and Greek Historian Simeon Rice as such, "In the game of coaching, there's nothing like him. He's definitely one of a kind. He's a Michelangelo, an Aristotle, a Socrates. He's a great philosopher. He changes coaching to an art form. He understands the psyche of man and how to motivate men." I still don't see Joey as nothing but a backup with a clipboard. I can't see it. Marinelli must get rid of Joey. Get a new QB and draft O-line and DBs. Marinelli might be inspirational to his Defensive line boys, and Marinelli played both sides of the line as a player, but he will need some very good offensive coaches to surround himself with to deal with those pretty boys. Both Herm Edwards and Tony Dungy like Marinelli, and so does Gruden...and that gives me a small fuzzy. If he can be a line of scrimmage guy and get players to play each week without all the bonehead penalties....I'll be happy. The division is a line of scrimmage division - cold weather with two outdoor away games in GB and CHI. With Minnesota changing, Green Bay changing, and the kittens changing coaches....I believe it will still be a black n blue division. Lovie is also another disciple of Dungy, and I bet Rod tries to give him a few courtesy calls in the next year. Rod is a very confident man, and he might help instill some mindset into the kittens. Practicing with pads and earning a paycheck is a novel idea, and I can't expect a guy from California Lutheran to profess much less.

I understand the comments about bringing in a coach of the defensive line to coach a team that is already strongest at that position. But, when I think about it...Sean Rogers has the chance to bring serious fear and double teams with a guy like Rod. We should get some more sacks and 3 and outs. Our linebackers might get healthy and roam from side to side with a bit of speed. It is still line of scrimmage that wins the most games. Kevin Jones will get better with Rod. With no QB (is Orlovsky gonna get any NFL Europe action this winter), that has to brought in to have a chance in his first year. And as for the comments about not ever being a coordinator, let alone head coach, both Dungy and Lovie tried to hire him as one. So, it was only a matter of time. The Bucs wouldn't allow him to leave until this year. That long record of sacks he has going is impressive, and he comes from a team that had two great head coaches and a perennial powerhouse to fear defensively. So, I guess my glass is half full with the Marinelli resume. Like I said, we will never get a winning head coach worth anything before their is respect. We didn't want Haslett, and he sucked in his two stints as coach anyway. Grimm is more of an unknown than Marinelli, and has far less experience coaching. I respect Tony Dungy more than a Simeon Rice, or Matt Millen, or any other sports journalist, and he said this on him, "Rod Marinelli is a tremendous coach and person. He has the ability to relate to all types of players. He is perfect for the Detroit Lions, and this could not have happened to a better person." — Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy.

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