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Monday, November 24, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 8/1/2001

Mornhinweg's tantrum says a lot - about him

Let's get this straight. In an attempt to punish his football team, Detroit Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg gave the players the afternoon off?

Why? So they could think about how hard they should be practicing while in the middle of their backswing on the first tee?

Indeed, it would be different if Mornhinweg were a veteran NFL coach with a track record for being a little eccentric, instead of pulling such a juvenile stunt in only his seventh practice as head coach. Then I wouldn't hesitate giving him the benefit of the doubt.

I don't trust Mornhinweg yet because I don't know him.

Mornhinweg and first-year Lions president Matt Millen are carrying their new-sheriff-in-town routine to the extreme.

It was cute at first.

Millen and Mornhinweg promised to make sweeping changes and instill more discipline, which is precisely what a new team president and head coach are supposed to do. For instance, the players no longer ride around training camp in golf carts, after enjoying those country club privileges under former coach Bobby Ross.

Mornhinweg and Millen made a lot of promises. Some promises they couldn't keep.

They talked about signing NFL career receptions leader Jerry Rice (who had no intention of signing with Detroit), and releasing veteran wide receiver Herman Moore (who they were forced to retain after Rice rebuffed their advances). They moved a little too fast for their own good.

Did Mornhinweg also jump the gun when he angrily ordered the players off the practice field 30 minutes into Monday afternoon's training camp session at Saginaw Valley State University?

Was he showing off for owner William Clay Ford?

Was he doing the bidding of Millen?

Was his outburst (complete with a dramatic departure on his motorcycle) real? Staged?

Mornhinweg was frustrated, angry. The heat was oppressive. Mornhinweg's players were tired and dragging through their second practice of the day. They looked like the Lions of old, and Mornhinweg lost his temper.

But he can't go off half-cocked. Not as a coach. And especially not as a rookie coach whose greatest claim to fame is that he rubbed shoulders with Bill Walsh and Mike Holmgren.

Maybe their greatness will rub off on Mornhinweg. Or maybe he'll become another Wayne Fontes.

Mornhinweg criticized the Lions for not playing hard Monday afternoon after praising their excellent morning practice. Some people might see that as a reflection of the coach, especially a rookie coach.

When the time comes for Mornhinweg to take a hard look at himself, I want to see if he will be just as critical. I want to hear him say, “If you want to blame the players, blame me also. It's my team.”

The Lions don't need a coach who points fingers. If Mornhinweg had issues with his team, he should have addressed it with his team.

What the Lions need is a coach who realizes that a team mirrors its coach.

If Mornhinweg doesn't like what he sees in the Lions, he should do something about it, right there on the spot.

John Harris is a Blade sports columnist. E-mail him at jharris@theblade.com.



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