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Published: Sunday, 12/4/2005

Lions make changes but fortunes seem set

ALLEN PARK, Mich. - The Detroit Lions' dismal season is mercifully down to five games.

Coach Steve Mariucci has been booted out, and former defensive coordinator Dick Jauron has taken over on an interim basis after initially balking at replacing his former boss.

Jauron's first team meeting began Wednesday with cornerback Dre' Bly apologizing for his disparaging comments about quarterback Joey Harrington - Bly blamed Harrington's poor play for getting Mariucci fired.

And Jauron's first practice began with him sacking Harrington, the former No. 1 pick, in favor of journeyman quarterback Jeff Garcia.

Lions interim coach Dick Jauron claps during a practice session, but he clearly has his work cut out for him. Lions interim coach Dick Jauron claps during a practice session, but he clearly has his work cut out for him.

It was a surprising move by Jauron, given that Lions president and CEO Matt Millen said one of the reasons he fired Mariucci was because he wasn't happy with the development of Detroit's younger players.

The 27-year-old Harrington, who is still waiting for an apology from Bly, would figure to fall into that category.

Apparently not.

The 4-7 Lions' immediate future is in the hands of the 35-year-old Garcia, who will start today against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field.

Meanwhile, Harrington's future with the franchise is uncertain.

Jauron left no doubt that Garcia will be the starting quarterback for the rest of the season, barring injury.

"We need to take these next five weeks and play as well as we can play, perform as hard as we can, and see what we can get out of it," said Jauron, who was forced to make 23 quarterback changes in his five seasons (1999-2003) as the coach of the Chicago Bears.

"We will do everything we can to win. We know it is going to be difficult because we haven't done a very good job of that to this point."

Not only have the Lions changed coaches and quarterbacks again, they also have changed who will call the plays.

Quarterbacks coach Greg Olson, who handled those duties at the end of last season, has replaced offensive coordinator Ted Tollner, who was demoted.

Millen also fired offensive line coach Pat Morris and tight ends coach Andy Sugarman.

With Olson in charge now, you can expect more passes in the direction of the Lions' highly touted young receivers - Charles Rogers, Roy Williams and Mike Williams. And look for tailback Kevin Jones to get more carries in the much-discussed and cussed West Coast offense.

"We are not going to install much here in a five-week

period," Jauron said.

Jauron, 55, faces two daunting challenges: He must hold together a locker room that is in shambles and he must get better production on the field.

The Lions have lost four of their last five games and have been all but eliminated from the playoffs. Like Harrington, Jauron knows he might not fit into the team's long-range plans.

"I will not think beyond this game and stay right there," said Jauron, who played his college football at Yale and was a fourth-round pick of the Lions in 1973. "I don't think it makes any sense for me to predict where anything is going because we all know, things are not predictable."

Actually, the Lions are very predictable.

The Ford family has this losing and firing thing down pat.

Jauron is Detroit's fifth coach in six years, following Bobby Ross, Gary Moeller, Marty Mornhinweg and Mariucci.

Stay tuned for the next round of musical coaches.

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