ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions hired Rod Marinelli
because they hope he's the tough coach they need to turn around the
team that has been the NFL's worst since 2001.
Marinelli, who spent the past 10 seasons in Tampa Bay as
defensive line coach, certainly looked and sounded like the right
"There's one voice for discipline. Mine," the Vietnam veteran
said during his introductory news conference. "There's one voice
for leadership. Mine."
Lions president Matt Millen acknowledged the team he began
crafting five years ago -- which has compiled a league-worst 21-59
record -- has been soft.
"That's my fault," said Millen, who later added he will never
quit his job in Detroit.
Millen interviewed 12 coaches the past two weeks, a hiring
process that was in stark contrast to the brief searches leading to
the hirings of Steve Mariucci and Marty Mornhinweg.
"It was a learning experience for me," he said.
Marinelli, who has a four-year contract, bristled at the notion
of facing a difficult learning curve next season when he is a head
coach for the first time at any level.
He had the title of assistant head coach added by the Buccaneers
in 2002, a role he also had at Arizona State and California during
his 20 years as a college coach.
"That has prepared me to be a head coach," the 56-year-old
Marinelli said he had a couple of opportunities to be a
defensive coordinator, but Tampa Bay denied suitors permission to
Millen is not bothered by Marinelli's lack of head coaching
"It's been done before, there have been guys that have come
from the same route," Millen said. "To me, it's less about what
they've done, and more about who they are.
"I've been around coordinators that haven't coordinated."
Marinelli is the latest protege of Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy
to get a head coaching job.
"Another one of Tony Dungy's apples has fallen from the tree,"
Kansas City coach Herm Edwards said in a statement released by the
Lions. "[Chicago's] Lovie Smith was part of his staff. I was
fortunate to be a part of his staff, and now Rod Marinelli."
Though Marinelli has not led a football team, he attracted
interest from at least one other NFL franchise with an opening this
offseason. The Oakland Raiders interviewed Marinelli on Monday,
then he traveled to suburban Detroit for a second interview with
Marinelli was scheduled to depart from Detroit on Wednesday
night -- when former New Orleans coach Jim Haslett expected to
arrive for a second interview -- but ended up staying to negotiate
"Football is a show-me game. I'm tired of talking," said
Marinelli, who refused to predict whether the Lions would make the
playoffs next season. "Let our film talk for us."
Dick Jauron, who took over when Mariucci was fired in November,
was one of many candidates Millen interviewed. Among the coaches
Millen also interviewed were: Haslett, Pittsburgh offensive line
coach Russ Grimm; Denver offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak;
Cleveland offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon, New York Giants
defensive coordinator Tim Lewis and San Francisco assistant head
coach Mike Singletary.
Marinelli's coaching career began in 1973 as an assistant at
Rosemead (Calif.) High School. He was an assistant at Utah State
from 1976-82, before moving on to California for nine seasons,
Arizona State for three seasons and Southern California for one
Marinelli helped Tampa Bay establish an NFL record with 69
straight games with at least one sack from 1999-03, and win the
Super Bowl three years ago.
"He does a great job of understanding how to motivate and how
to speak to people," Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks said on
a conference call. "He takes that to another art form because he
believes when he tells it."
When Lions quarterback Joey Harrington outlined what type of
coach the team needed earlier this month, he seemed to describe
"This is still a young team and an impressionable team, so it
has to be someone who is very strong in what they believe,"
Harrington said. "It has to be somebody who may force you do
something, even though you may not like it."