Detroit Lions Shake-Up: 0-16 Means a New Coach, Little Else

Ian EnosCorrespondent IDecember 29, 2008

A day after closing out the worst season in NFL history, the Lions began to move on.

Sort of.

While some felt there was a chance that the overall turmoil in the Lions' organization might net head coach Rod Marinelli a stay of execution, quite the opposite occurred.

Marinelli, as well as son-in-law and defensive coordinator Joe Barry and Barry's father, assistant offensive line coach Mike, were relieved of their duties Monday.  Only two other coaches were let go.

It's worth noting that many assistants are retained immediately after the dismissal of a head coach to give incoming coaches an option of keeping them on staff, but such a retention rate for a staff not widely considered to contain any real assets suggests that Detroit's next hire might be asked to take on some of Marinelli's remnants.

Gracious as ever, Marinelli's press conference summed up his experience in Detroit.  Marinelli acknowledged, at least in a backhanded way, the failures of his football team and has admitted that he misjudged what some of his old Buccaneer defenders had left in the tank, but wins in the NFL clearly aren't awarded for being a class act, and Rod's team simply didn't get it done on the field.

"You can't go 0-16 and expect to keep your job."  Well said, coach.

However, if you're a Detroit Lion, you can expect to be promoted.

It was previously announced that COO Tom Lewand and Interim GM Martin Mayhew were to be retained in some capacity, but that capacity was left to one's imagination.  Perhaps grasping at the increasingly sparse straws of hope for the future, many Lions fans read more into the lack of details in the announcement than they should have.

First off, Martin Mayhew, a lieutenant to Millen during his entire Lions tenure, had the "interim" tag removed from his position. While it is unknown to outsiders exactly how much and what kind of input Mayhew had in the disastrous personnel moves of the last eight seasons, most people would agree that any is far too much.

Secondly, long-time executive Tom Lewand was promoted to Team President.  Described by many as a shrewd and inventive businessman, it would be understandable to retain Mayhew in a non-football capacity, but this move suggests that Lewand, who has always had Ford's ear, will be deeply involved in all sides of the organization.

It is as of yet unclear who will be given final approval over personnel decisions.

There are two schools of thought on why anyone would make these moves (save insanity).

One: These are difficult economic times, especially in Michigan, and even the Ford family is not exempt. Retaining a staff that is not only already in house but also considered one of the most inept in their entire business is certainly the least fiscally burdensome option on the table. Of course, it's also the least likely to succeed.

Two: The team is trying to build continuity. It seems probable that Ford doesn't understand how continuity helps a football team. Continuity allows members of a team to become comfortable with each other and the system in which they operate.  Maintaining continuity from the worst eight-year stretch in league history doesn't do either of those things. 

It maintains the dysfunction that is universally perceived to be present within the Lions' sparkling Allen Park facility, and it continues the obvious dearth of confidence the fans, and probably the players, have in the organization.

Teams have cleaned house and made fresh starts in the past. The Dolphins went through an extensive overhaul just last year, bringing in top football mind Bill Parcells. If there was ever a time for a clean slate, shouldn't it be after the worst season any team has ever experienced?

The Lions had piles of unsold tickets week after week this season. Their annual Thanksgiving Day game would have been blacked out had it not been for an NFL-ordered extension of the sales deadline. At this stage, what about the current organization has been so successful that Ford sees it necessary to continue at the cost of further alienating his already bruised, beaten, and battered public?

The Ford family should already know the impact of losing consumer confidence.  They, along with the other American automakers, did so in the 1980s, and it's one of the factors that still hangs over the industry today.

It is far from a secret that Lions fans want a new organization; they have been clamoring for wholesale changes. They would like the overhaul to extend all the way to the top, but most accept this as pure fantasy. The sentiment that losing the Lions to a city like Los Angeles might actually be preferable to Ford's continued ownership has grown exponentially in recent years.

Monday did nothing to derail that trend.

So long, Rod. At least you got out. As for us, we're still stuck here—Lewand, Mayhew, and all.