Analysis: Thinking about firing Marty? Think again

Stemming from Sunday's controversial loss to the Chicago Bears, the media and fans alike are criticizing Lions' head coach Marty Mornhinweg, and even asking for his dismissal. Our Lions' insider Mike Fowler takes a deeper look at the issue, and poses several questions that need to be answered before any move is warranted.

(ALLEN PARK, MI) -- The drums are beating and the flames are being fanned.

In the aftermath of Detroit's demoralizing 20-17 OT loss to the Chicago Bears last Sunday; fans and some in the media alike are calling for the head of Lions head coach Marty Mornhinweg on a platter.

The reason? Mornhinweg elected to kick, rather than take the ball in sudden death overtime.

ESPN commentators weighed in on the issue all day yesterday. "It is the dumbest decision a coach has made all year, if not in the last ten," said former Minnesota Vikings quarterback turned analyst Shaun Salisbury. "Of course you take the ball. There is no other option."

Tom Jackson, a hall of fame linebacker with the Denver Broncos said that "it would have to be an 80-mph wind or a snowstorm" to prevent a coach from taking the ball in a sudden death overtime. But Salisbury responded, "I don't care if there's a hurricane."

Still, Mornhinweg was steadfast on the decision saying, "I would do that again."

So, let's say Mornhinweg did make the wrong decision, is that reason enough to fire him? "Decisions like that in the past, if it had been for the playoffs, will get coaches fired," said Salisbury.

Well, the Lions are a long way from getting to the playoffs and that is the major question that anyone ought to think about when talk of firing either Mornhinweg or president and general manager Matt Millen arises. The Lions have already won one more game than they did all of last season with five games remaining. So they've made at least a little progress. Is that enough?

My feeling is Detroit needs to win at least five games to demonstrate tangible progress in 'year two' of a rebuilding process. If Detroit finishes 3-13, then both Millen and Mornhinweg ought to be evaluated at season's end to see if their "plan" actually has any viability at all.

But before any firings take place, there are five factors that owners William Clay Ford, Sr. and Bill Ford, Jr. need to consider.

1. You've committed two years to a rebuilding. You can't go backwards because you've thrown most of the good veterans away. (i.e. quarterback Charlie Batch, wide receiver Herman Moore, wide receiver Johnnie Morton, strong safety Ron Rice, cornerback Terry Fair and guard Jeff Hartings). If you deviate from the M&M rebuilding plan, do you have a viable alternative?

2. You've committed to the west coast offense. If you bring in a new GM with a different philosophy he's going to want to clean house again, translation, another three years to build. Do you really want to do that?

3. Despite Mornhinweg's poor calls on Sunday, do you really believe he's hopeless? Or do you think with another year of bringing in drafted talent and some good free agents this time, he could win in a year or two?

4. Is there a "can't-miss" coaching prospect out there that could step in and fix things pronto? If Mike Holmgren or Steve Mariucci is going to be available as a coach and could step in and run the same West Coast scheme and philosophy, alright. But if not, see #2 above.

5. If you relieve President and GM Matt Millen because you think he's incompetent, is there a guy with the same philosophy who will be willing to keep the rest of the front office staff intact including super-talented draft guru Bill Tobin? If not, then who fills the power void? Is it Lions senior vice-president Kevin Warren? Is it CEO of Ford Properties, Tom Lewand? Is it Tobin? Is it Marty?

None of this is to suggest that there isn't a great football mind out there that could fix things with the Lions. And please, don't peg me as a Millen or Mornhinweg apologist. Both have made enough mistakes in their two-year regime to warrant someone making a case for their dismissal. But we've been down this road before with the Detroit Lions. We have seen enough Tommy Hudspeth's, Darryl Rogers' and Bobby Ross' to give us nightmares.

If the Fords are seriously thinking of making a change, they ought to get input from someone who knows how to put together an organization, namely someone like Bill Walsh. Walsh still holds the title of consultant with the 49'ers but there is no doubt that if Ford, Sr. came calling, the 49'ers would allow Walsh to help out.

An aside to the Ford's; If you make another change, no more neophytes like Millen and Mornhinweg.

This time, don't miss.


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