Lions notebook: Marinelli remains safe

Now that the Lions have fired offensive coordinator Mike Martz, there are two burning questions: What will the offense look like now? And why didn't Marinelli fire defensive coordinator Joe Barry? This question and more answered. Complete team notebook inside.

Now that the Lions have fired offensive coordinator Mike Martz, there are two burning questions: What will the offense look like now? And why didn't Marinelli fire defensive coordinator Joe Barry?

First, the offense. The Lions promoted offensive line Jim Colletto to offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Kippy Brown to assistant head coach and passing game coordinator. They wanted to keep some continuity.

The Lions likely will keep the same basic system and terminology, so they aren't adjusting to a whole new offense. But the playbook likely will be simplified and the play-calling more balanced.

Colletto will call the plays, which should indicate Marinelli wants to run the ball more than Mike Martz did.

Martz had perhaps the most complex offense in the NFL. Lots of plays. Lots of formations, motions and shifts. The Lions struggled to find an identity within it.

"I don't think we had any bread-and-butter plays," offensive lineman Jeff Backus said after the season finale at Green Bay. "At least it didn't feel that way."

Though Martz continued to call the plays, Colletto took over the running game during the season.

Before the Lions played Dec. 9 against Dallas, Colletto gave the players only about eight plays to master. That allowed them to feel comfortable, focus on their task and get into a rhythm.

The Lions ran for 152 yards against the NFL's fourth-ranked run defense. That helped pass protection. The Lions allowed one sack to a team that was tied for fourth in sacks.

Offensive lineman Edwin Mulitalo, who played under Colletto with the Ravens, said afterward: "I know the way we ran it in Baltimore, and the way we ran it on Sunday has that same feel, where you simplify it, you have a certain amount of plays and you run those very well."

After the season finale, Backus sounded as if he would welcome that approach next season.

"We need to be consistent on certain plays," Backus said. "We need to have plays that are kind of our identity, things that we're good at and we understand completely how to run them against any defensive front. We need to have a handful of plays where when all else is going wrong, we can fall back on these plays and we don't have to worry about execution because we know them."

As for the defense, Marinelli fired defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson after one season and replaced him with Barry. The defense finished dead last in average yards and points allowed. So why isn't Marinelli firing Barry too?

Henderson had no background in the Tampa Two defense, and Barry comes straight from Tampa Bay, just like Marinelli. Marinelli and Barry believe in the same system and believe they know how to teach it well.

The reason Barry hasn't gotten as much heat as Martz has is because expectations were much lower for the defense. Talent is a major issue.

Some have made an issue of the fact that Barry is Marinelli's son-in-law. But had Marinelli not hired him, Barry likely would have been a defensive coordinator somewhere else in the NFL. He is qualified, especially in this system.

Don't forget Marinelli was close to Henderson too. He and his wife, Barbara, were Henderson's dorm parents at Utah State. Henderson calls Mrs. Marinelli "Mom," and Marinelli fired him.

Why did Marinelli hire guys like Henderson and Martz in the first place if their philosophies didn't mesh? Remember, there were a lot of new head coaches trying to put together staffs about this time two years ago. Marinelli wanted Barry, but the Buccaneers wouldn't let him out of his contract, so he hired Henderson. He went after Martz because he thought he was the best man available.

Individual Notes

  • Lions officials still have not commented publicly on the firing of Mike Martz and promotions of Jim Colletto and Kippy Brown. The team has released a statement only. "Jim is an excellent football coach," Marinelli said in the statement. "He knows what it takes to win in this league, and I am confident that he will do a tremendous job leading our offense. His appointment also allows us to maintain continuity in our offense, which is important to our players."
  • Running back Kevin Jones had surgery to repair his torn anterior cruciate ligament. Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure in Birmingham, Ala. Jones is expected to miss the entire offseason program for the second straight season. Last year, he was rehabbing from a serious foot injury.
  • Quarterback Jon Kitna told SI.com that Martz took too much blame for being unbalanced. "People kind of knock Mike for not being balanced offensively," Kitna said. "Well, when things get crazy in a game and you're down by 14 points, 21 points, the play-calling does get lopsided because he knows the passing game can get you back in it. But if you look at our games the past two years, when we were in the game, not down 13 points at halftime or 21 points, we were a pretty balanced football team. In our seven wins this year, we rushed for more than 100 yards in six of them. But there were three different times this year when we gave up more than 30 points in the first half. It's kind of hard to run when that happens."
  • Cornerback Fernando Bryant refuted a report he was likely to retire. He said he was not retiring, that he would play somewhere next season. He said he hoped it would be Detroit but he wasn't sure. He said no one from the Lions had told him he would not be back, but he had a feeling Detroit wanted to go in another direction. He has two years left on his contract.
  • Linebacker Ernie Sims was the only Lion to receive an All-Pro vote. He received one.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is much further along. This is totally different. This is not even close to where we were with the Lions. This is a much different situation." -- Former Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz, comparing the 49ers offense, which ranked last in the NFL this season, to the Lions offense, which ranked 19th, in the San Francisco Chronicle.

    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

    COACHING CAROUSEL: Coach Rod Marinelli is safe for another year. But he has fired a coordinator for the second straight year. Last year it was defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson. This year it was offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

    Jim Colletto has been promoted to offensive coordinator and remains the offensive line coach, while receivers coach Kippy Brown has become the assistant head coach and passing game coordinator. Shawn Jefferson has been promoted from offensive assistant to receivers coach. Tim Martz, Martz's son, was fired as an offensive assistant, and defensive assistant Fred Reed will not return.

    FREE AGENT UPDATE: The Lions have no players who are candidates for the franchise tag. They have offered an extension to offensive lineman Damien Woody, but Woody wants to explore his options. Other free agents like George Foster and Tatum Bell won't be back.

    FEELING A DRAFT: Defense, defense, defense. If the Lions draft another offensive player this year, he better be an offensive tackle, because other than that, their needs are on the defensive side of the ball. They need just about everything, especially cornerbacks.

    TEAM NEEDS Cornerback: The Lions allowed the highest completion percentage against this season, by far.
    Defensive end: Kalimba Edwards did not work out at right end and will be gone, and the Tampa Two relies on a strong pass rush.
    Middle linebacker: The Lions need someone who can anchor the middle of the Tampa Two. They can move Paris Lenon to the strong side.

    MEDICAL WATCH: The biggest injury story is running back Kevin Jones' torn anterior cruciate ligament. He has had surgery and begun rehab. This is the second straight offseason Jones has dealt with a severe injury. Last year, he had a Lisfranc injury and didn't return until Week 3.


  • Lions Report Top Stories