The question was asked, but not necessarily to generate laughter. It didn't anyway. And for perhaps the first time since taking the reigns as head coach of the Detroit Lions, Rod Marinelli was absolutely grilled on an issue following yet another loss.
"Is Jon Kitna basically Teflon?" questioned a reporter during the post-game briefing.
It was asked because of Detroit's fifth consecutive defeat after a 30-20 loss against Minnesota. It was asked because the team's starting quarterback committed four of their six turnovers. And it was asked because Kitna's status as team starter -- despite leading the league with 26 turnovers -- has been imprenatable .
"No, those are your words. Not mine," he responded.
Marinelli's defense of Kitna has remained steadfast, and it has evolved from odd curiosity to controversy in a matter of weeks. Even more frustrating is that Detroit's back-up, the younger and more athletic Josh McCown, was considered a free-agent prize quarterback during the off-season. Yet the only snaps McCown has seen during the regular season have been at wide receiver.
McCown, who has fresh legs, a great escape ability and powerful arm, wouldn't be a bad option considering the lack of protection given to Kitna in recent games. And if that means two less turnovers a game, a change might be worthwhile.
Marinelli has stated previously that he doesn't want to make a change at quarterback for two reasons: he doesn't believe the team's ills rest solely at the feet of Kitna. And two, he wants the team to have a leader behind center, and he is insistent that Kitna is that leader -- maybe through 2007 and beyond.
The latter of those comments, made during practice early last week, drew criticism considering Kitna's season-to-date, Detroit's win total, and his age (34). But on Sunday, Marinelli didn't want to acknowledge the notion that he quite simply is being stubborn.
"I don't know if it's stubborn," he said. "It's right. You can use stubborn. I'll use right."
Immediately following the game, Kitna not-so-surprisingly agreed with the coaching staff's decision to let him remain the starter.
"No, they look at the whole picture," he said. "I'm the quarterback for this football team and it's never what the naked eye sees; it's always more than that. Keep going out there, you keep trusting what you're doing, you keep throwing the ball where you're supposed to throw it and hopefully good things work out for you."
Added Kitna, "That's probably why this situation is as bad as it is around here because that's what's happened around here in the past: they just kept changing quarterbacks. That's not that way you handle things in this league. If the quarterback is the problem then you change him.
"So far they haven't said I'm the problem."
Marinelli on injuries: "(Ross) Verba has a pretty severe groin strain. We still have to check that out. Jeff Backus (had a) foot (injury) and he was able to come back in a little bit later. Kevin Jones is going to need to an MRI. I don't want to talk about it until we get that done. And Blaine (Saipaia) had a reoccurrence of his chest (injury)."
The Lions will conduct the MRI on Jones Monday.