Martz still in talks over Lions' coordinator job

Updated: February 2, 2006, 3:59 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

DETROIT -- Former St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz has agreed to become the offensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions, a job for which he interviewed on Tuesday, but there remains a fairly significant caveat:

Mike Martz
Martz

The two sides must still negotiate a contract. And those talks are still believed to be in the relatively early stages.

Lions first-year coach Rod Marinelli, appearing at a Wednesday afternoon press session at the primary hotel for Super Bowl week, termed the parties "close" to a deal.

"We still have plenty of talking and working through some things to do," Marinelli said.

Talks continued between Martz and the Lions but no deal has been struck as of Thursday afternoon, ESPN.com's John Clayton reported. The problem is money. Martz has the freedom to bring three of his Rams coaches to fill out the Lions' offensive coaching staff, but both sides remain apart on the numbers.

Martz and Marinelli met for several hours on Tuesday but no offer was immediately made to the former Rams coach, who missed the final 11 games of the 2005 season as he recovered from endocarditis, a bacterial infection of a heart valve. The Lions did, though, offer the job to Martz on Tuesday night, after he returned him.

The 54-year-old Martz was cleared by specialists treating his heart condition to return to work on Jan. 1. He recently interviewed for the Oakland Raiders head coach vacancy, but then withdrew his name from consideration over the weekend. Martz and the Rams have reached a settlement on the one-year, $3.25 million remaining on his contract. It is not known if there are any complications with that deal that might delay negotiations with Lions officials.

It was clear from his Wednesday remarks, however, that Marinelli wants Martz on his staff and that, as a first-year coach, he has absolutely no reservations or insecurities about having a more experienced head coach on board.

"That man knows how to win and how to move the football," Marinelli said. "I like him and I would love to have him."

Not counting the 11 games he missed last season, during which Joe Vitt served as interim head coach, Martz compiled a 56-36 record with the Rams. He led St. Louis to four playoff appearances, two division titles and a Super Bowl XXXVI berth. In his five full seasons in St. Louis, the Martz-designed offense statistically ranked in the top 10 every year, and was No. 1 in 2000 and 2001.

Even for the innovative Martz, reviving the moribund Lions offense might be a challenge, given the unit's recent history. The Lions have not finished in the top half of the NFL's offensive standings since 1998, and were 20th in 2005. Also, the quarterback situation remains unsettled, as is the future of former first-rounder Joey Harrington.

Marinelli said he has not yet spoken to Harrington and likely will delay the call, he said, until a coordinator is in place. Marinelli, the former Tampa Bay defensive line coach, said he has spoken to other candidates about the coordinator post in the event a deal with Martz is not consummated, and said he will wait as long as necessary to find "the right man for the job."

Speaking to an audience that included many national reporters not familiar with him, Marinelli exuded the same passion that likely helped earn him the Lions' job. He spoke of wanting a strong team and strong coaches who would bring fresh ideas and who would not be afraid to challenge him.

"I don't want to have a bunch of guys just sitting [in a meeting] saluting me," he said.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.