ALLEN PARK - After a miserable 4-7 start to a season filled with expectations and talk of a Super Bowl run, the guilty verdict was finally delivered to Steve Mariucci.
During a Monday afternoon press conference, the Detroit Lions confirmed the dismissal of Mariucci as head coach of the ball club, naming defensive coordinator Dick Jauron his successor on an interim basis.
The announcement followed perhaps the most awkward 72 hours in the history of the organization, in which speculation was rampant that Mariucci would be fired following the team's embarassing 27-7 Thanksgiving loss on national television.
At the time, Mariucci shrugged off the suggestion, and the team even issued a blunt, "business as usual" statement. The delay, though, was ultimately the team preparing itself to jettison Mariucci after the Holiday weekend and secure his replacement.
Millen, who was so aggressive in his pursuit of Mariucci three years ago that he even earned a fine for violating league rules, said the decision wasn't easy.
"This is a pretty difficult thing because it involves someone who is as good as a person as I have ever met," said Millen. "This is a brutal business and at times, good people suffer a cruel fate and this is one of them.
"With that, after some lengthy discussions over the weekend with Mr. Ford and Bill Ford, we have decided that - in the best interest of this football team - we are going to make a change and dismiss Steve (Mariucci) from the head coaching position."
An underachieving ball club ultimately sealed Mariucci's fate.
Mariucci compiled a 15-28 record as head coach despite fielding a team with a slew of top draft choices and free-agent acquisitions deemed "solid" signings at the time. Some believed that Mariucci simply wasn't the type of coach to handle young talent, and his friendly persona and lack of discipline had an adverse impact on the squad.
Others blame him for the misuse of fourth-year, "franchise" quarterback Joey Harrington, who never felt comfortable in Mariucci's west coast offense.
Millen said the next five games will be used to determine whether or not that talent can live up to its billing.
"We have five games to develop our younger players," he said, adding that no one on current coaching staff is guaranteed a job next year. "We have five games to prove that we are what we think we are, especially with our younger players."
Added Millen: "We have to focus back with our football team. The talent is there. We have not played up to that talent. We need to play at a higher level. Each player and each coach and each person in the front office has to do a better job."
Jauron, also a good friend of Mariucci's, will take the interim tag in stride, but admitted that the cure to the team's offensive woes likely won't be corrected overnight.
"We are not going to install much here in a five-week period," said Jauron, who coached the Chicago Bears from 1999-2003. "We can lean in one direction or another for what is already in, but in a five-week season, which is essentially what we are looking at, you are not going to significantly change anything and hope that they can function.
"Our practice time is limited, so that is where we are."
Jauron played defensive back for five seasons with the Lions after the team drafted him in 1973. His head coaching stint in Chicago included a 13-3 record in 2001, handing him Associated Press Coach of the Year honors.
The team also announced the release of offensive line coach Pat Morris and tight ends coach Andy Sugarman.
Current offensive coordinator Ted Tollner was demoted to coach the tight ends and assist the elevated Greg Olson. Olson, the quarterbacks coach, will officially assume playcalling duties.
Coincidentally, Olson worked as an offensive assistant under Jauron in Chicago in 2003.
Lions Dismiss Mariucci; Elevate Jauron
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