Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Marinelli is no noodle

I let the Rod Marinelli hiring marinate in my brain for a while so I could soak in all of the positives and/or negatives he brings to the Lions. Over the last two weeks, my feelings have pretty much run the gamut. The only thought that didn’t cross my mind was, “this is an awful hiring.” I suppose that is sufficient enough evidence to convince me that it was a decent hire. Obviously, any time your franchise brings in a first-time head coach, it brings up memories of Marty Mornhinweg. That aside, the Lions needed some new blood. They needed someone who would come to Detroit and get results from underachieving players. Marinelli seems like the kind of guy that will get results or die trying.

Matt Millen was a hard-nosed, physical football player. He went away from that philosophy in hiring Mornhinweg and then Steve Mariucci. He went even further away from that philosophy by drafting four straight offensive skill positions with top 10 picks. Marinelli is everything that Millen’s tenure hasn’t been. He’s defensive-minded. He’s organized. He’s professional. The hiring of Marinelli might signify Millen’s realization that the adage of building championship football teams through the defensive and offensive lines actually holds merit. If anyone doubts that, look no further than the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks. They have arguably the two best offensive lines in the league. They were both in the top five in the NFL in rushing yards for and against. To his credit, Millen did steal Shaun Rogers in the second round of the 2001 draft but Rogers stands as Millen’s only above-average defender obtained via the draft. Millen struck out with Jeff Backus on the offensive line in his only attempt at addressing the lines with a first round pick. That probably speaks ill of Millen’s eye for talent more so than a lack of desire to bring in skilled lineman. Nevertheless, Millen needed to pick a completely different course for the franchise and I believe the hiring of Marinelli did just that.

The Lions appear to be making a conscientious effort to bring in a respected group of coaches and coordinators. Donnie Henderson accepted the defensive coordinator position which is somewhat of a coup considering Henderson has been an up and coming head coaching candidate for the last few years. As good as it is to have Henderson on board; my guess is that the Lions choice for offensive coordinator will have a bigger impact on the success of the franchise. Marinelli will pretty much call the shots on defense so Henderson’s impact will probably be felt in motivation and reinforcement rather than in game-planning. Millen has taken a lot of heat for drafting three straight wide receivers with high first round picks. In hindsight, that turned out to be a terrible strategy but the result wasn’t inevitable. If the picks had performed the way every draft expert and talent evaluator predicted, critics would be singing an entirely different tune. The breakdown was two-fold. The players haven’t lived up to expectations but at the same time, the coaching staff has been abysmal at offensive game-planning. When Millen invested valuable draft picks on receivers, I’m sure he envisioned an on-field return similar to that of the Indianapolis Colts. Instead, his coaching staff gave him something closer to a high school game-plan. If Millen can bring in an offensive coordinator that can make use of that first round talent, and god forbid, make those players better, those picks could still come to fruition.

The only rumor I’ve heard so far about possible offensive coordinators coming to Detroit is Mike Martz. For those of you that are new to my blog, I’ll reiterate that I don’t care too much for Martz as a football mind nor do I like what I’ve seen with regards to his personality. The Lions bringing in Martz as offensive coordinator would be the equivalent of me hiring Kenneth Lay as my investment representative. That’s just something I wouldn’t do. The Rams were a dynasty in the making in 1999. They destroyed teams with a proficient offense and an aggressive defense. Their team was loaded with young, superstar talent. Dick Vermeil retired. Enter Mark Martz and the rest is history. The Rams have been a bumbling mess ever since. Granted, Martz would have far less control as Offensive Coordinator of the Lions than he did as head coach of the Rams. As a result, he would find it more difficult to single handily ruin the Lions as he did the Rams. Even if Martz somehow reformed his personal and professional philosophies and was guaranteed to be the Rasheed Wallace of reformed NFL coaches; that still doesn’t address the fact that Martz is extremely overrated. In the last six years, the Rams never fared better than 22nd in the NFL in rushing attempts. In fact, they finished 26th, 22nd, 32nd, 28th, 30th, and 29th respectively. That doesn’t mesh too well with the idea that championships are won on the offensive and defensive lines. The laughably low number of rush attempts per game could at least somewhat be defended if the Rams were below-average at the running back position. As everyone knows, the Rams have one of the greatest running backs in NFL history in Marshall Faulk. For the last two years, the Rams have had both Faulk and emerging superstar Steven Jackson. Yet, Martz continued to ignore the running game. One of the most frustrating aspects of Mariucci’s tenure was his penchant for ignoring Kevin Jones. Martz would only make the problem worse.

The Patriots have been dubbed a pass-happy team during their Super Bowl runs. Former Offensive Coordinator Charlie Weiss was lauded for his precision-passing game and propensity to throw at any time. Even with Weiss’ affection for the passing game, the Patriots were always mindful of the running game. Over the last five years, the Patriots finished 8th, 28th, 12th, 5th, and 18th in rushing attempts. Despite Weiss’ pass-oriented offense, he never abandoned the need for balance. Martz clearly has had no sense of balance in his play-calling and that certainly wouldn’t change just because he’s coming to Detroit.

I know a lot of people in Detroit probably want Martz on board because he has attained a reputation as an offensive genius. The media has been far more kind to Martz than his record has deserved. There are various sites on the internet that pay tribute to Martz’s miscues over the last six years. Martz suffered a heart-attack this season. When he expressed interest in returning early the Rams fired him. Keep in mind that the Rams have Marc Bulger, Tory Holt, Issac Bruce, Marshall Faulk, Orlando Pace and Steven Jackson on offense. If the Rams didn’t want an offensive “genius” to run that team, then that should speak volumes for how good of a coach Martz really is. If he didn’t run the ball with Faulk, Jackson and Orlando Pace, then he won’t run the ball with Kevin Jones. I guess my point is that Martz has been a disaster as a head coach. If given the choice, I would probably rather have Lloyd Carr calling the Lions offense over Martz. I can’t believe I just said that.

Anyhow, I like the Marinelli hire. The Lions will be aggressive and effective on defense for the first time in my lifetime. The unanswered question is how the offensive will pan out. Millen should bring in a guy with the same philosophies as Charlie Weiss. The key to an effective offense is balance and a reliable running game. The Lions haven’t had that since Scott Mitchell took the same magic potion that Brady Anderson took. Millen’s biggest decision will be the next one he makes. My guess is that whoever his choice for Offensive Coordinator is will be the deciding factor in whether Marinelli ends up being a good hire or not. For those of you that are “up in arms” about the Marinelli hire, it could be worse. You could be a Buffalo Bills fan. Apparently, they were impressed with the way Dick Jauron gracefully went 1-4 without eliciting any semblance of a team pulse after taking over for Mariucci.


Anonymous said...

Nice to see Jauron is hiring all the coaches who helped make that Lions defense so stout. What's next, bringing Bobby Williams in to coach up Willis?

Jake said...

Jauron got fired from the Bears. He couldn't find a head coaching job for the life of him so he took the Def. Coordinator position with the Lions. He has two extremely unproductive seasons in which the Lions team tanked. Then, he takes over as interim coach where he compiled a 1-4 record without any competitiveness whatsoever. So after getting fired from the Bears, he can't get a job. He sucks with the Lions and immediately becomes the head coach of the Bills. That's unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe no Super Bowl coverage!

I went to the game to watch my Seahawks and it was great. I've attended hundreds of sporting events at many levels all over the world and this beat that ten times over. the halftime show was a bit weak but all the pregame stuff including the Motown concert and all the vending was perfectly executed.

The city was bumping with celebrities (porn and otherwise), athletes, and people from every corner of the country. The festivities were great to include winterblast, all the NFL events, and new establishments beamed with business. For a Detroit lover I was extremely pleased with the way the city prepared and welcomed the Super Bowl and I'm hoping this sent a message to the non-Detroiters that this isn't a bad town.

So now the 2009 Final Four and the 2010 Frozen Four offer even more opportunities for Detroit (not to mention the PBA finals!) to prove the city is still alive. Now to get whitey to move back to the westside!


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