Study in contrast: Mooch vs. Green

Don't think for one minute the Arizona Cardinals aren't looking at a road date in Detroit as a winnable game. On the other hand, Detroit is using this season as a developmental year, believing that 2005 will be the season they become a playoff contender. The thinking of both squads is a direct reflection of their respective head coaches.

(ALLEN PARK) For a team that has lost five straight games, a date with the Arizona Cardinals would seem to be a treat. But that would be for a team other than the Detroit Lions. The Lions can't afford to take anyone for granted because everyone takes them for granted.

Don't think for one minute the Arizona Cardinals aren't looking at a road date in Detroit as a winnable game. On the other hand, Detroit is using this season as a developmental year, believing that 2005 will be the season they become a playoff contender.

The thinking of both squads is a direct reflection of their respective head coaches.

While Lions head coach Steve Mariucci plays the steady reliable pilot at the helm of the Detroit ship - sticking with incumbent starter Joey Harrington through all of his struggles including a 10 point decline in passer rating over a three week period - Arizona coach Dennis Green plays the role of the riverboat gambler, changing QBs weekly in an effort to find someone who can play the position.

Green started with holdover Josh McCown who won four out of nine starts, but then when McCown faltered again, Green picked fifth-year quarterback Shaun King, whom he admired when King was calling signals for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But King quickly lost two straight ballgames and now Green has tabbed rookie 7th round draft pick John Navarre - yes that John Navarre to get the Cardinals out of their funk.

Mariucci is doing the right thing by starting Harrington and keeping the status quo - and he can afford to. With a five-year contract in hand, Mooch has the kind of job security that allows him to take a long-term approach to Detroit's offensive problems.

He knows that Detroit needs to get Harrington, who hasn't shown any signs of life in the last six weeks, playing at the level he played at earlier in the season. If not, Detroit will go the way of Cleveland, Seattle and nearly San Diego, who threw away high draft picks trying to solve their quarterback problems.

On the other hand, if Harrington rallies in the late portions of the season or even does a Drew Brees imitation next season, Detroit's quarterbacking woes could be solved.

On the other hand, Arizona's Dennis Green is in a different situation and takes a different approach. As a minority head coach, Dennis Green's approach can be reflected in the developments that took place last week in South Bend, IN involving former Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham.

Minority coaches seldom get the kind of long-term security and power as some of their counterparts. Green, who built the Minnesota Vikings into a perennial playoff contender, making the playoff seven times in nine seasons, found himself nearly begging for a job last year after leaving the Vikings organization.

So don't blame Green if he doesn't believe in coddling quarterbacks or waiting for them to develop. His philosophy is players should work on developing their skills during practice time, but after kickoff, play the player that gives you the best chance to win. New York Jets head coach Herman Edwards is famous for saying "you play to win the games," but Edwards got that mantra from his former mentor Green.

"I came into the league in 1992," said Green. "I coached in '92 like I do in 2004. I put a lot of pressure on myself and everyone else to do a good job, and I don't have the patience to say 'things might turn around'. I don't buy that. I think you have to be very pro-active to try to get things to turn around. That's how I've always been."

It will be interesting to see which team becomes a playoff contender quicker.

They have taken opposite approaches. The Cardinals built with defense, stockpiling defensive players like linebacker Karlos Dansby, end Kyle Vanden Bosch, defensive tackle Darnell Dockett and free agent acquisitions end Bertrand Barry (leads the NFC with 10.0 sacks) and corner Duane Starks. Detroit took the opposite approach with five straight first-round offensive picks tackle Jeff Backus, Harrington, wide receiver Charles Rogers and Roy Williams and running back Kevin Jones.

It's not out of the question to think these two long suffering franchises meeting Sunday could see a reversal of fortunes and see each other again, in a playoff matchup in 2005.

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