Hire of Tollner means Lions will stay conservative

After the hiring of Ted Tollner as offensive coordinator, Lions' head coach Steve Mariucci will be firmly in control of the offense next season for better or for worse.

ALLEN PARK - Steve Mariucci will be firmly in control of the Lions offense next season for better or for worse.

Mariucci, who's version of the west coast offense in Detroit has been roundly criticized for being too conservative, reached into his past and has selected former USC head coach and San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Ted Tollner for the same role in Detroit.

Mariucci, who hired Tollner as a quarterbacks coach in San Francisco before getting fired himself, has tabbed his former mentor to join his staff in Detroit.

"I've known Ted for more than 20 years and consider him to be one of the best minds in football," Mariucci is quoted as saying on the Detroit Lions official website.

The move means the Lions will retain the structure it has taken on since Mariucci's hire. The head coach will have significant input, if not control, of the offensive play calling and philosophy with the coordinator doing much of the game planning, but not necessarily the play calling.

Tollner, 64, has a history with his new boss. Mariucci spent a season working under Tollner as wide receivers and special teams coach at the University of Southern California before he moved to California as an assistant. Tollner has bounced around the country after being fired from USC a year later, working as an NFL assistant in Buffalo, San Diego and Los Angeles before being named head coach at San Diego State University.

After an eight-year stint at SDSU, he was bumped into an administrative position, but decided to re-join Mariucci as a quarterbacks coach, then offensive coordinator under Dennis Erickson, a postion he assumes again.

The team apparently decided that former Saints offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy, who interviewed with Mariucci for the same position and who ironically will be named 49ers offensive coordinator replacing Tollner today, was asking for too much autonomy over the offense.

McCarthy is known to be a hands-on coordinator who likes the vertical passing game and who is willing to take risks to score points. He was believed to be asking for near total control over play calling and game planning, much like defensive coordinator Dick Jauron has received from Mariucci.

That runs against the grain for a career offensive coach like Mariucci, who intends to keep a close eye on the unit and have substantial input into how it functions.

The unit's function, with Tollner's hire, will be nearly identical to the way it functioned with Sherman Lewis as offensive coordinator.

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