Rod Marinelli Given Discharge Papers by Detroit Lions

Scott RiegerAnalyst IDecember 29, 2008

On the heels of the sorriest regular season in NFL history, the sad-sack Detroit Lions have once again identified a fall guy for their poor performance.

After finally letting GM Matt Millen go earlier this season, head coach Rod Marinelli was also fired this morning by the Lions' owner. William Clay Ford Sr. fired most of the coaching staff, with the exception of wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, running backs coach Sam Gash, and offensive coordinator Jim Coletto, who was demoted to offensive line coach.

Ford also announced that Tom Lewand is the new president and Martin Mayhew is the new general manager, which ends speculation that the Lions would hire away an outsider like Patriots VP Scot Pioli.

They still could bring in a personnel guy as the VP or assistant GM, but obviously won't bring in a guy that Mayhew and Lewand would be subordinate to. 

The moves are perplexing to some degree and understandable to another. I'll explain.

Head Coach

I was in favor of keeping Marinelli. The lack of talent on the roster wasn't all his fault, and in fact, was mostly the fault of the previously fired Millen. Marinelli was given a basket of crap and told to make a winner out of it. He failed! 

I understand the record was horrible (10-38), I understand that you have to win in this league to keep your job, but I also know that Tom Landry could've and should've been fired after his first year in Dallas but wasn't. In fact, the owner had the foresight to sign him to an extension. WCF has no such vision.

My issue is that the drafts since he has been the coach have been better than in previous years, actually selecting impact players and getting decent contributions (Calvin Johnson, Kevin Smith, and Ernie Sims are examples of this).

He also managed to get rid of the locker room cancers like Dre Bly, Shaun Rogers, and Mike Williams, which allowed the team to stay united and play hard to the very end, even facing dubious history.

Roy Williams even said as much on a Mike and Mike interview, shortly after being traded to Dallas. He said that the guys like Marinelli and that they were listening to his message, but just weren't executing. He said that he thought the Lions should keep Marinelli going forward.

Marinelli had never been a head coach before or even a coordinator at the NFL level, and it showed. He routinely made mistakes with clock management and game decisions that left people scratching their heads. But that was to be expected for a first-time coach.

He also brought in a bunch of Tampa Bay retreads to fortify the defense. This was a move that hugely backfired. Coach Marinelli was much maligned for that and deservedly so; however, he was constantly working with the team to improve and never quit on it.

Likewise, they didn't quit on him, either. For that, I was hoping they'd give him one more year.

It will be interesting to see who will be brought in to coach and if the scheme will change dramatically. If so, it's possible that we will be looking at some more poor seasons while the Lions undergo another schematic change and have to learn all new jargon/plays, etc. 



The fact that some coordinators were retained has led to some speculation that WCF may already have a head coach candidate in mind and has cleared the retaining of some guys.

The other explanation is that WCF will require the next head coach to keep those guys because he thinks highly of them. I actually have no issue with this because I like all of them for those positions.


Shawn Jefferson

Very good player and competitor during his playing days. Excellent teacher and has a strong relationship with Calvin Johnson. Oversaw the development of CJ this year and was able to get results from a depleted/injured receiving core late in the season.


Sam Gash

Sam scouted Kevin Smith out of college and was instrumental in bringing him in. Gash, a former fullback, understands assignments and blocking techniques which he has imparted to Smith throughout the season.

Smith ran for almost 1,000 yards and had eight touchdowns, while not being featured for the first part of the season and running behind a porous line. With another season under Gash and with a hopefully improved offensive line, Smith could easily post a 1,200-1,500 yard season reminiscent of the Barry Sanders years.


Jim Coletto

Not good at all as the offensive coordinator but widely regarded as a top-notch line coach. This makes sense, particularly if they plan on adding some young talent to the horrendous line. That should be a priority, and Coletto will likely do a good job of it.


Front Office 

I was hoping they'd make a run at Pioli or some of the other notable GMs out there, but honestly I am not too upset by this.

Lewand is regarded as a smart and capable guy when it comes to the business side of things and Mayhew is an up and coming guy who unfortunately had to work alongside the worst GM in history. 

By all accounts, he is regarded highly and is very intelligent professionally while having good football knowledge. The trade of Roy Williams for multiple draft picks was a bold move for a newcomer, but so far looks to have been in the Lions favor. Roy Williams has largely underperformed and has been underused in Dallas. Let's see how he does in the draft and free agency, though.


In summation, I am sad to see Marinelli go. I appreciated his steadfast approach and respect for the players and the game.

I truly believe that the players responded to him and liked playing for him. He is a good person and human being first, which is important, and in my opinion he is a fine football coach. Just not a great head coach yet. I hope he gets a chance elsewhere in the future.


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