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Monday, December 29, 2008
Marinelli fired after historic 0-16 season

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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Rod Marinelli will be remembered as the first and perhaps only coach of an 0-16 team in NFL history.

If someone recognizes Marinelli for that dubious distinction in the future, he won't put up a fight.

"I'd accept it and move on," Marinelli said Monday being fired by the Detroit Lions. "I wouldn't give an excuse and I wouldn't give an explanation."

Even on Marinelli's way out, he wouldn't blame former president Matt Millen for making his job moot because of the talent-deprived roster he had for three seasons.

"I've said it all year long, 'It starts with me,'" he said.

The Lions started their offseason Monday morning, a day after they became the NFL's first 0-16 team, by firing Marinelli and promoting the leaders of the front office.

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

The leaders of Detroit's front office, though, did just that.

Lions owner William Clay Ford elevated Tom Lewand to team president and Martin Mayhew to general manager.

Ford also dismissed defensive coordinator Joe Barry, Marinelli's son-in-law, assistant offensive line coach Mike Barry, his son-in-law's dad, and secondary coach Jimmy Lake.

Defensive line coach Joe Cullen's contract was not renewed and offensive coordinator Jim Colletto was demoted to offensive line coach.

Lack of approval

When he was fired, Rod Marinelli's SportsNation NFL coach approval rating was 29 percent. It was his third-highest mark of the year.
Marinelli's rating | All coaches

The Lions now will search for their sixth coach since 2000. Sources told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio that the Lions have asked permission to talk to New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. The New York Jets are also expected to ask for permission to interview Spagnuolo to replace Eric Mangini.

Sources tell ESPN's Chris Mortensen that the Lions have also received permission to talk to Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.

In addition, the Lions have asked for permission to interview Washington Redskins secondary coach Jerry Gray, who was a teammate of Mayhew's in 1993 with the Buccaneers. They are expected to ask for permission to talk to Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Another possible candidate might include Brian Billick, who helped the Baltimore Ravens win a Super Bowl.

The Lions completed their winless season with a loss to Green Bay on Sunday, pushing aside Tampa Bay's 1976 season of 0-14 as the league's worst. Marinelli, though, said the team was not the worst ever in his opinion because the players didn't quit, pout or point fingers.

He won only one of his last 24 games and was 10-38 in three years after Millen gave the former Bucs assistant his first head coaching job.

Marinelli was the third coach Millen hired -- following Steve Mariucci and Marty Mornhinweg -- in what has been the NFL's worst eight-season stretch (31-97) for a team since World War II. Millen inherited Gary Moeller in 2001, fired him, and had Dick Jauron as an interim coach after firing Mariucci.

Millen was fired as team president three months ago, but the players he left behind, coupled with the former Tampa Bay players Marinelli wanted, created the perfect storm for a historic season of futility.

Marinelli acknowledged he misjudged what some of those former Bucs had left in their playing careers. He also, in a rare second-guessing moment, wondered if he raised the bar too quickly after Detroit started 6-2 last season.

"I've wrestled with that one a lot and I go back to that following week," he said. "We talked about the playoffs. I don't want to believe that was it, but once I started down that road and I have not done that before ... we lost something."

The Lions dropped seven of their last eight games last year, foreshadowing the miserable season that just mercifully ended.

Marinelli waited for three decades to be a head coach. He finally got his chance with a franchise in the middle of one of the worst eras of futility in NFL history.

"I can't say he's a bad coach," quarterback Dan Orlovsky said. "I just think he was put in a really difficult situation."

The Vietnam veteran's relentless ways helped him make a deliberate rise through life and the coaching ranks.

The 59-year-old Marinelli grew up in Rosemead, Calif., a working-class town near Los Angeles. His coaching career started in 1973 as an assistant at his alma mater, Rosemead High School, where the football field is named after him.

Marinelli went on to work on the staffs at Utah State, California, Arizona State and Southern California before Tony Dungy gave him a shot in 1996 to work in the NFL as defensive line coach in Tampa Bay.

A decade later, Detroit was desperately looking for a coach to turn around the laughingstock of the league. Millen hired Marinelli after an extensive search.

Now, the Lions are looking for another coach to take on the monumental task of turning them into a winner.

Again.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.