Lions coach mum on status of O-coordinator Martz, but players bristle
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Jon Kitna found tight end Sean McHugh for a 5-yard gain, well short of the needed 10 yards on fourth down late in the fourth quarter of yet another meaningless game to finish the Detroit Lions' season.
It was also a fitting end, if it's truly over, to offensive coordinator Mike Martz's fractured two-year tenure -- a play too late to matter, too far to go and too poorly designed to be effective.
Lions coach Rod Marinelli wouldn't comment on multiple reports that Martz was finished, either by stepping down or being fired, after a 34-13 loss to Green Bay on Sunday.
"Not here, not now,'' Marinelli said of the situation. He fielded about a half-dozen more questions about his offensive coordinator, finishing by finally saying, "I'm not going to discuss it.''
Neither Martz, nor his apparent replacement, wide receivers coach Kippy Brown, could be found in the locker room by the time the Lions finally opened it to the media.
Martz's agent, Bob LaMonte, also did not return a message left by The Associated Press.
The offensive players who did talk about Martz said that they shoulder the blame.
"You can keep changing coaches, but every time you change them that's a new system,'' said Kitna, who finished 22-of-48 for 246 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. "The reality is, the games that we lost, the majority, the times that things didn't go right, it was self-inflicted stuff.
"It wasn't a coaching thing where you were outcoached or they weren't putting you in a position to be successful. There were plays to be made, and we didn't make them for whatever reason that is.''
While it's easy to blame Martz for failing to replicate the "Greatest Show on Turf'' he had in St. Louis while winning a Super Bowl and appearing in another, the Lions showed all the reasons Sunday why they've been terrible since Barry Sanders ran away to retirement.
Detroit combined costly mistakes with shoddy offensive play and a porous defense, the obvious reasons for the 31-81 record the Lions have over the last seven seasons.
"Whatever decision they make, that's what they're going to do. We've got to somehow move on. I'm really getting tired of changing coaches around here,'' center Dominic Raiola said. "Since I've been here, we've been changing coaches and there comes a point in time where it's not the coaches anymore.''
Said kicker Jason Hanson: "We could really benefit from some continuity, but that's not up to any of us.''
Detroit failed to gain any momentum against the Packers, who sat cornerback Charles Woodson, Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Kampman and their primary run defender, defensive tackle Ryan Pickett. By the second quarter, most of the defensive starters were gone, too.
"Their starters weren't even on the field and we couldn't put points up,'' Raiola said.
Kitna also didn't do himself any favors even though Marinelli said the quarterback was "definitely'' in Detroit's future plans. The Lions lost seven of their final eight after a 6-2 start, and one pathetic series highlighted their perpetual problems.
Midway through the second quarter against Green Bay's reserves, Detroit took possession for a quick three-and-out that included a dropped pass by Mike Furrey that left Kitna stamping his feet, a Kitna overthrow that sailed all the way to the Packers' bench and a third-down pass out of the shotgun that missed Brandon Middleton.
Detroit's best offensive weapon was Hanson, who hit kicks from 35 yards and 38 yards.
Like always with Detroit, it was far from enough to matter.
"There's so many times that we've gotten close only to have it come unraveled at the end,'' Hanson said. "I feel like this team is really close, but I also know I've felt that way before.''
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press