Tollner's mission: From horizontal to vertical

New Lions offensive coordinator Ted Tollner, who learned the wide open passing attack that is the mother of the west coast offense from the legendary Don Coryell, has his task set before him. Lions' insider Mike Fowler evaluates what Tollner can bring, and whether or not he was the right man for the job. Quotes from head coach Steve Mariucci inside.

ALLEN PARK - New Lions offensive coordinator Ted Tollner, who learned the wide open passing attack that is the mother of the west coast offense from the legendary Don Coryell, has his task set before him.

Over the coming weeks, Tollner will work intensely with Lions coach Steve Mariucci to change the Lions playbook "about 25%" He'll try to get the Lions going north and south instead of east and west.

There has been a lot of debate over whether Tollner has already been put to the task on the airwaves, in chat rooms and message boards around Metro Detroit. Some tout Tollner as being instrumental in the development of Buffalo's K-Gun offense and St. Louis Rams pass happy vertical game despite the fact he was only with those clubs one year.

Others say that Tollner's offense flopped in San Francisco last season and that he is a step down from Sherman Lewis, the Lions retired offensive coordinator a season ago. They cite San Francisco's tepid attack that ranked near the bottom of the league.

The truth is probably more of the former than the latter. Throughout his career Tollner, who learned at the feet of Coryell, who in turn, learned from the lengendary Sid Gillman, has shared and learned ideas from some of the best minds in football. He has had success creating and implementing a vertical passing game in the college ranks. At the pro level the results have been mixed, mostly because he hasn't stayed in one place very long.

Mariucci is convinced that Tollner was the best man to craft Detroit's "West Coast 2.0". "We're going to evaluate every one of our cutups, run and pass," said Mariucci, "[we'll] find out where we are with all of this. We'll trim the fat, so to speak. We'll eliminate the things we don't feel we want to do. Then we'll see where we need to add and how we'll alter this and alter that.

While Tollner will need to learn Detroit's base offense, it's apparent that the Lions need to get more chunk plays - that is, plays that gain chunks of yardage - in the 10-20 yard variety, rather than the 3 to 5 yard passing plays that limited the team's ability to stretch the field.

One bone of contention, Mariucci stated that Tollner will "start out calling the plays" but not necessarily do that continually. That was just one of many reasons that he and former Saints coordinator Mike McCarthy did not mesh well together.

Some critics of the Lions point to poor clock management at the end of half and games because the head coach is too involved in the offensive play calling to see the big picture. Mariucci will likely rely on Tollner to closely monitor game situations and time out usage.

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