Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Monday, November 28, 2005

How lame is this duck?

Weren't the Lions supposed to have a new (interim) coach by now? But here we are on another Monday, frustrated with the result and wondering what happened. And the Lions didn't even play a game yesterday. On Thursday night and Friday morning, the dismissal of Steve Mariucci was reportedly imminent. I spent a good chunk of my holiday Friday listening to WXYT, waiting - as the news vultures were - for what seemed like an inevitability.

But as I write this, Mariucci is still the Lions head coach. On Thursday night, FOX 2's Dan Miller (who used to host a radio show with Matt Millen before he came to Detroit) reported that meetings were taking place to discuss a coaching change.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Yet nothing happened on Friday. What went through Millen's mind during the day? After sleeping on it, did he not want to make a decision based on anger and embarrassment, following the Lions loss to Atlanta? Did he prefer to take the weekend to sort through his thoughts and explore his options?

Did he want to wait until the Fords returned from their Thanksgiving excursion before making a final decision? Was he concerned that firing a man during a holiday weekend might seem heartless?

Did Mariucci's likely interim replacement, defensive coordinator Dick Jauron, not want the job? And if that was the case, was that reluctance based on loyalty to Mariucci? Was he worried that leading the Lions through the remaining lost cause of a season would taint his resume? Was it about money? Or did Millen question whether Jauron would be a suitable replacement?

As usual, there are nothing but questions surrounding the Lions. But if anything is to be salvaged from what has now officially become a miserable season, Millen needs to answer some of those questions - especially the ones surrounding the coaching staff - immediately.

When Mariucci wasn't fired on Friday, I briefly thought that may have been the right move. After all, there are only five games left. What would really be different? Even if Jauron was installed as head coach, he's not going to have that job once the season ends. And the players would surely realize that. So what would be the point of changing one dead coach walking for another? Just ride this out, and plan for next season.

But maybe a firing could happen later today, and this is why it should: Millen has to figure out what he has here. And he can't do that while Mariucci is running his sideways offense and sending passive-aggressive messages to players like Joey Harrington and Kevin Jones. He's coaching out of sheer desperation now. Substituting Jeff Garcia at quarterback with three minutes left in the first half on Thursday was the hasty kind of move a teenage boy makes on a first date. That was grabbing for his date's breast before she could get out of the car. Does Millen really want five more games of that?

Playing for a coach whose job is on life support would allow the team to let itself off the hook, and Millen needs to know who will take some accountability for their play. Who can be counted upon next season? Who wants to live up to their potential talent?

Is Harrington the quarterback Millen thinks he is? Are the wide receivers capable playmakers that can stretch a defense down the field and influence the outcome of a game? Is Jones the type of running back who thrives on a heavy load of carries, gets stronger as a game wears on, and can tire out a defense? Millen won't know unless he lets Greg Olson run the offense, as he did through the final games of last season. Harrington and Jones have never looked better.

And though the consensus is that Millen is so popular with Lions ownership that his job is safe, these last five weeks could indicate exactly what sort of leader he is. Is he the kind of guy who will make tough decisions when they need to be made? Is he capable of steering this franchise toward prosperity? Does he really know what to do with the power that the Fords have given him? Or is he ultimately just playing fantasy football?

As Tom Petty once sang, the waiting is the hardest part. Five more weeks of this could be excruciating.


  • At November 28, 2005 10:05 AM, Anonymous Evan said…

    At this point, unless you can score a true personnel guru, firing Millen doesn't seem to be a good decision unless you want to punish him for being such a dumbass.

    The reality of the situation is that Millen has assembled a group of talented, though seemingly fragile, players. They're fast; they're athletic; they're whiny. But let's not forget they're fast and athletic. Do you want to completely give up on that? Some other guy will come in, clean house, et cetera. We'll have a year of "evaluating talent," then a year of rebuilding, then we'll be back to square one.

    Millen had never done this before, and he's done a poor job. No huge surprise, I guess. But most of his worst moves came early on, and most of his best moves came later.

    Drew Sharp wrote an article about how the ownership needs to make the tough decisions now, et cetera. And he's right -- but not the firing Millen decision. They need to encourage Millen to make the tough decisions instead. And that is: COMPLETELY ABANDON MOOCH. NOW. Not just Mooch, but Tollner and every shred of the basics of the current offense.

    As you say, let Olson take the reigns. Hell, hire a defensive-minded coach, and give him the fucking OC job next season despite his lack of experience. You're exactly right that whatever he did last year, he had Harrington and Jones firing on all cyllinders.

    Combine that with a defense that, when healthy, is good enough to be in the top ten in the league and you start to have a real team without having to overhaul.

    That seems attractive to me.

    In some whats, Marty was supposed to help do that. He was the offensive gambler. The playmaker. The crazy balls-to-the-wall guy. But he didn't have the experience to make it happen.

    I dunno...the Lions tend to make me rant, rave, and ramble. But I've drank enough of the KoolAid that I see where Millen is trying to go -- a fast, nimble, aggressive team that puts up points like you wouldn't believe and that kills you with speed on defense. He just hasn't gotten the right guy to help him bring his vision to life just yet.

  • At November 28, 2005 10:49 AM, Blogger Sports Litter said…

    The Lions need to completely rebuild that team from the ground up. Treat them like an expansion team. It is such a wreck. I don't know who could fix that team up.

    I also expected Mooch to be fired sometime Friday, but he still remains head coach. I always thought it was best to firing a coach then and there instead of waiting till the end of the season.

  • At November 28, 2005 11:39 AM, Blogger Ian C. said…

    Evan, I'm not in favor of firing Millen either. I thought extending his contract was a good idea, in fact. But I'm very wary of him hiring another head coach.

    I can only hope that he's learned from his mistakes and will actually conduct an interview process this time, rather than just hire the guy he has his eye on. Millen needs to know that his draft picks are giving his coach what he wants and needs.

  • At November 28, 2005 11:40 AM, Blogger Ian C. said…

    Sports Litter, what's frustrating about this whole thing is that the Lions already went that "expansion" route when they cleaned organizational house, hired Matt Millen, and let him blow up the roster.

  • At November 28, 2005 12:11 PM, Blogger Ian C. said…

    As of noon, WXYT's Tony Ortiz is confirming FOX Sports' report by Jay Glazer that Mariucci has been fired.

  • At November 28, 2005 12:36 PM, Anonymous Evan said…

    Dude. Ian.

    You had this up before ESPN and the Free Press.


  • At November 28, 2005 12:41 PM, Blogger Ian C. said…

    Evan, thanks - but those guys have to check with sources and confirm info. I just listen to the radio. :-)


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