Lions fire Henderson, O-line coach Beightol, too

Updated: January 3, 2007, 1:56 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions fired defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson and offensive line coach Larry Beightol on Tuesday, two days after finishing a 3-13 season.

The overwhelming favorite to replace Henderson is Tampa Bay linebackers coach Joe Barry, who is Marinelli's son-in-law and who is highly regarded around the league. Marinelli attempted to hire Barry last year but, because he was under contract, the Bucs denied the Lions permission to speak with him. Barry's contract in Tampa Bay will expire in a few weeks.

Clayton's take
 John Clayton
Rod Marinelli's firing of Lions defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson shouldn't be much of a surprise. Henderson loves to blitz and come up with creative blitz packages. Marinelli believes in execution and likes to stay in the Cover 2 defense and not take too many gambles.

To read more of John Clayton's Quick Hits, click here. Insider

Lions coach Rod Marinelli announced the decisions at his final weekly press conference of the season.

"Donnie Henderson is very close to me, and it was a very difficult decision," Marinelli said. "It was more about systems than anything else. With Coach Beightol, I just felt like we needed to make a change at this time."

The Lions' projected five starters on the offensive line never started a single game together this season. Beightol, 64, is a 22-year NFL veteran who has worked with eight different franchises.

Marinelli also announced that longtime special teams coach Chuck Priefer had announced his retirement.

Priefer will be replaced by his assistant, Stan Kwan, and will work with the organization in an undetermined role.

The Lions allowed 398 points this season. Only the 49ers (412) and the Titans (400) surrendered more. Detroit finished fifth-worst in the NFL (345.6 yards per game).

Henderson and Marinelli have a 30-year relationship that dates to Henderson's days as a defensive back at Utah State, where Marinelli was the defensive line coach. The two coached together at California (1990-91) and Arizona State (1992-94), but never in the NFL before Detroit.

Henderson, a 10th-round pick by the Lions in 1980, coached defensive backs in Baltimore from 1999-2003 and was the Jets' defensive coordinator from 2004-05.

Henderson had no experience in the "Tampa Two" system that former Bucs defensive line coach Marinelli brought with him last January from Tampa.

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com senior writer Len Pasquarelli was used in this report.

Twenty-four hours after completing another forgettable season, the Detroit Lions will be making a coaching change on the defensive side of the ball.

Defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson, after one season with the club, will not be retained, the Detroit Free Press reported in Tuesday's editions. Henderson and Lions coach Rod Marinelli agreed to a mutal parting, according to the newspaper, due to a difference in defensive philosophy.

Neither was available for comment Monday, the Free Press said. Marinelli is scheduled to make an announcement Tuesday.

The overwhelming favorite to replace Henderson is Tampa Bay linebackers coach Joe Barry, who is Marinelli's son-in-law and who is highly regarded around the league. Marinelli attempted to hire Barry last year but, because he was under contract, the Bucs denied the Lions permission to speak with him. Barry's contract in Tampa Bay will expire in a few weeks.

Marinielli also dismissed offensive line coach Larry Beightol, whose unit suffered through a spate of injuries in 2006. The Lions' projected five starters on the line never started a single game together this season. Beightol, 64, is a 22-year NFL veteran who has worked with eight different franchises.

Detroit finished 3-13 following Sunday's 39-31 victory over the playoff-bound Cowboys, but lost by winning; the Lions gave up the No. 1 overall pick by scoring their most points since the 2003 opener.

The Lions allowed 398 points this season. Only the 49ers (412) and the Titans (400) surrendered more. Detroit finished fifth-worst in the NFL (345.6 yards per game).

Henderson and Marinelli have a 30-year relationship that dates to Henderson's days as a defensive back at Utah State, where Marinelli was the defensive line coach. The two coached together at California (1990-91) and Arizona State (1992-94), but never in the NFL before Detroit.

Henderson, a 10th-round pick by the Lions in 1980, coached defensive backs in Baltimore from 1999-2003 and was the Jets' defensive coordinator from 2004-05.

Henderson had no experience in the "Tampa Two" system that former Bucs defensive line coach Marinelli brought with him last January from Tampa.

ESPN.com senior writer Len Pasquarelli contributed to this report.