By Doug Warren
If the Detroit Lions were a political party, then Lions' Head Coach Steve "Al Gore" Mariucci just hired Michael Dukakis as his new offensive coordinator.
In this case, Dukakis comes in the form of five-time NFL assistant and two-time collegiate Head Coach Ted Tollner.
While I admit to having heard of Tollner before Wednesday, I'd be willing to bet that most Lions' fans haven't. So for those of you wondering, here is the NFL resume of the man tabbed to give the kiss of life to the Lions' flat-lining offense:
Year Position Team Record Head Coach
1987-88 Receivers Buffalo Bills 19-12 Marv Levy
1989-91 O-Coordinator San Diego 16-32 Dan Henning
1992-93 Quarterbacks L.A. Rams 11-21 Chuck Knox
2002 Quarterbacks SF 49ers 10-6 Steve Mariucci
2003 Quarterbacks SF 49ers 7-9 Dennis Erickson
2004 O-Coordinator SF 49ers 2-14 D. Erickson
Career Totals : 65-94 (.408)
During his four previous stops in the NFL, Tollner's record is average at best. While he experienced success with the Bills under Marv Levy and offensive coordinator Ted Marchibroda, the rest of his NFL resume is less than stellar. His stint as offensive coordinator with the Chargers under Henning was disastrous. Chuck Knox was on his last legs during the time that Tollner was his QB coach in Los Angeles. Mariucci was on borrowed time when he brought Tollner to San Francisco in his final season, and Erickson should have never been hired by the 49ers in the first place.
Contrary to popular belief, Henning and Knox were never progressive offensive minds. Knox was known during his coaching days (Rams, Bills, Seahawks) as "Ground" Chuck, and Henning (current Carolina OC and QB coach) has always been a pound-the-ball coach with a run first mentality.
When a coaching vagabond like Tollner is touted as someone who can turn a team around, I get nervous. I also have a question. . . .
If Tollner is such a good coach, then why does he seem to find the employment line more often than other long-time NFL assistant coaches (i.e. Tony Dungy, Monte Kiffen, Mike Heimerdinger, Tom Moore) who stick with one team for a longer period?
Tollner was in San Francisco for the last three seasons. He was hired by Mariucci as 49er QB coach in 2002. After Mariucci was fired, Tollner stayed on with Dennis Erickson as his QB Coach, and then elevated to Offensive Coordinator last season. While it is true that San Francisco doesn't posses the talent they once did, Tollner did absolutely nothing to show that he is capable of turning around a struggling NFL offense.
As the 49ers OC in 2004, Toller led San Francisco's offense to the following gaudy numbers:
The ‘Niners finished 26th in the NFL in total offense in 2004, which was the first time they've ever finished that low since the league began recording statistical rankings in 1972.
San Francisco scored just 259 points last season. That was the second-lowest total in team history over a 16-game season.
They also finished the season with an NFC-high 40 turnovers, while the offensive line gave up 52 sacks (the second highest total in franchise history).
In addition, San Francisco ran for just 1,449 rushing yards (fewest ever in franchise history over a 16-game season), 10 rushing touchdowns (second-fewest ever), and a final NFL ranking of 26th or below in nine different categories.
But nothing says yuck about Toller's one-year stint as offensive coordinator more than the next paragraph. . . .
Back on September 26th, the 49ers were shutout 34-0 by Seattle (gaining just 1 first down on the ground in the process). It was the first time in 420 regular-season games (457 including playoff games) that they had failed to score a point. By the way, the record streak traces all the way back to the 1977 season. That's right folks, the last time the 49ers were shutout was when Jimmy Carter was in the White House. . . . Yikes!
Are Lions' fans supposed to be excited about this hire?
Can anyone else hear the crickets chirping around the Ford Field ticket booth?
I thought so. . . . It's peaceful isn't it?
It's sure a lot more peaceful than what 65,000 Boo Birds will sound like if Mariucci and Tollner fail to get the Lions' offense back on track next season.
With the championship drought at 47 years and counting, the birds will be very angry if they fail.