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Sunday, December 21, 2014
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Published: Monday, 2/3/2003

Millen is lucky he wasn't fired by Lions' Ford

My apologies to Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford. A couple of weeks ago I second-guessed Ford's decision to retain Marty Mornhinweg as coach.

Today I want to congratulate Ford for ordering president and CEO Matt Millen to fire Mornhinweg last week.

I wish Ford had taken one more step and fired Millen to make it a clean sweep, but Ford rarely abuses his power. Should Ford ever change his mind, Millen is a phone call away.

If anyone is uncomfortable with that, and Millen definitely should be, well, good.

Maybe the fear factor - having the owner peer over Millen's shoulder - will provide the necessary incentive for Millen to lead the Lions back to respectability.

Like it or not, Millen's still employed by the Lions because he convinced Ford he can deliver former San Francisco 49ers coach and Michigan native Steve Mariucci.

Let's talk about where the Lions are right now. A case can be made that the lowest point in franchise history has been reached.

No ifs, ands or buts, Millen will be a nervous wreck until he signs Mariucci. He shouldn't have allowed Mariucci to leave Detroit last week without a signed contract.

With Mornhinweg disposed of, there are no more Millen crutches. As Millen hid out most of last season, Mornhinweg served as the sacrificial lightning rod for a 3-13 record.

There is no bunker deep enough for Millen.He's fresh out of scapegoats to fire.

Mariucci, the top candidate on Millen's short list to replace Mornhinweg, will have to weigh the pros and cons of raising the Lions from the dead.

Since it's obvious Millen's comfort level with the next coach is of extreme importance, the Lions, too, should know what they're getting in Mariucci.

He is considered, by most NFL experts, to be one of the top 10 coaches in the league. He will give the Lions a winning resume and, most important, instant credibility.

Mariucci is a conservative offensive coach. He prefers running the ball and controlling the clock. In other words, he's a younger, more flexible version of Bobby Ross.

Unlike Ross, Mariucci cares what fans and the media think about him. Most of all, he cares what his players think about him. He's a player's coach.

Mariucci's personality is perfect for the Lions. He's upbeat and always positive, almost like a college coach. He's especially good with young players, pumping them up and encouraging them.

One of the things that got Mariucci in trouble in San Francisco was that he didn't change his personality as the 49ers evolved into more of a veteran team. The 49ers needed a tougher coach last season.

Mariucci's biggest problem in San Francisco was that he wasn't Bill Walsh. He didn't coach a wide-open offense and he didn't win a Super Bowl with the 49ers.

The Lions are a young team, led by a young quarterback, Joey Harrington. Under Mariucci, Jeff Garcia developed into a Pro Bowl quarterback with the 49ers. If Mariucci does for Harrington what he did for Garcia, the Lions won't care how nice a coach he is.



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