Marinelli: 'It's been positive'

The division-champion Bears travel to Detroit to face the cellar-dwelling Lions on Sunday, but the result won't mean much. Rookie head coach Rod Marinelli completely overhauled this team, but there's still plenty of work to be done. Marinelli talked with the Chicago media via conference call at Halas Hall on Wedneday, and Bear Report was there to hear what he had to say.

This just in: the Detroit Lions are struggling.

And not just this year, mind you. Since Matt Millen took over as general manager, the Lions have compiled a 23-71 record, by far the worst in the NFL over that six-season span. Detroit appears to be a dead team walking right now with a 2-12 mark and not much light at the end of the tunnel.

There have even been rumors circling the Motor City of a fan walkout during this Sunday's home finale against the Bears.

They have lost their last six games in a row. They had no players selected to the Pro Bowl. And even though a high pick certainly awaits them at this coming April's NFL Draft, Millen has made some infamous first-round snafus.

Most notably, despite needs at other positions, Millen selected a wide receiver with top-10 picks three consecutive years: Charles Rogers from Michigan State in 2003, Roy Williams from Texas in `04, and Mike Williams from USC in `05. While Roy Williams has turned into a very good player and leads the team with 1,127 receiving yards, Rogers and Roy Williams have been colossal busts. Rogers was cut before the season and remains unemployed, and Mike Williams has a grand total of four catches this season - three of which came last Sunday.

None of this has been easy on new head coach Rod Marinelli.

Despite being tied for the worst record in the league, Marinelli feels his team is making progress and buying into the system.

"Oh, no question," Marinelli said on Wednesday via conference call at Halas Hall. "One, I just think you just try to lay the cement in terms of how we practice, how we meet. Doing those things, how we practice. It's a great way to see the people that fit and what we're trying to do. So in terms of that, it's been positive. The thing you look at is how we've lost games, and we have to learn from that."

The Bears pummeled the Lions 34-7 back in Week 2, but Marinelli sees a Chicago team that is getting even better as the season goes on currently running on all cylinders.

"Obviously, they're playing at top-notch speed right now," he said. "In terms of their style, their defense is playing extremely well. They like what they're doing offensively, special teams - all three phases are running great. Obviously, that's why they're sitting on top of the league."

It would certainly be understandable if Detroit mailed in the rest of the season, and some cynics would argue that they already have. With veteran quarterback Jon Kitna not getting any younger, the prospects of drafting highly-decorated Notre Dame signal-caller Brady Quinn this spring could be the jumpstart the organization needs and a glimmer of hope for hungry Lions fans. It has been reported that Millen and his scouts are huge fans of Quinn.

But in terms of getting ready for Sunday's game, Marinelli insists that he's more focused on what his team needs to do in order to be successful and doesn't concern himself too much with what the Bears do well.

"It always goes back to what we do," he said. "It really doesn't matter what they do. It matters if our guys are ready to play - playing our fundamentals, playing our gaps, executing, securing the ball correctly - and we're mentally prepared to go out and play hard. That's the biggest issue we have."

Marinelli admitted that some of his current players probably won't be in the mix next season, but that is more a product of individual performances and not their abysmal record.

"Not because it's gone a certain way," he explained. "I look very closely on how guys come to work every day [and] how they prepare. The mental errors and things like that. You really find out a lot about some of these men right now through a little bit of adversity, and that's a very positive thing."

But has all the 'Fire Millen' talk in Detroit been a distraction to his football team?


Ever the long-winded one, a victory against the division-champion Bears could be a springboard for Marinelli as he looks toward a brighter future.


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