A day after offensive coordinator Jim Colletto announced the benching of first-round pick Gosder Cherilus, Rod Marinelli was defending it.
During Friday's press briefing, the Lions head coach chastised the media for questioning his decision making regarding the right tackle position. With Detroit's 0-5 start, and the season likely a lost cause, many have suggested that the team begin a youth movement. Cherilus was benched in the opening moments of Sunday's loss at Minnesota after being ran over twice by Vikings' defensive ends Jared Allen.
But Marinelli wasn't buying the argument.
"I don't think there's a right of entitlement. I don't care what draft status is," said Marinelli, who will plug veteran George Foster back into his former starting slot. "Do you understand what that means? Draft status? I look at a team. Some of you guys sit up in the bleachers all day eating popcorn, looking down. I'm in the middle of the arena in a team meeting and if I'm 0-5 or 5-0, I look at those men with the same consistent message: The guy who's playing well is going to play. That respects our game.
Marinelli continued with his explanation: "Do you understand what respect of this game means? My consistency, and that's what I'm going to do. And the way you hurt high draft picks—in the past here: it's yours; you can mess up all you want; you can gain weight; you can do anything you want and you're going to still play. That insults this game now. That insults it. So I'm going to do everything I can to get that guy going, and he's busting hard, and he is working hard. The fastest way to get back on the field for him is to do things exactly right, the way I want it done, every single day.
RT Gosder Cherilus will be given no "free lunch'
despite draft status, said Marinelli.
"Draft status? That didn't mean anything to me. Respect does and more importantly, is (that) I'm consistent with my message, 5-0 (or) 0-5. You have your agenda, so be it. I have mine. Is that answer clear?"
Cherilus has started at the right tackle position since week two, but the battle between him and Foster has been ongoing in practices ever since. Selected 17th overall in April, Cherilus is expected to anchor the right side of the line for years to come and, if called upon, move to left tackle. Cherilus played both roles during his career with Boston College.
The coaching staff blamed technique for the mammoth, 6-7, 320-pound lineman's shortcomings.
"Techniques; maybe some things with an assignment error – some of those things," said Marinelli. "So we have to clean that up, and we have to give ourselves the best chance, the best opportunity to win. There are no free lunches in the NFL. There's not a free lunch. That's the fastest way to on the field: in practice. And I'll tell you what, he came out fired up and really had a heck of a practice the other day. That's what I'm looking for: that competition."
Colletto, considered by many an offensive line expert, said that Cherilus wasn't prepared mentally for the challenge in Minnesota.
"He's got to get used to the level and tempo of the guys he's playing against every week; it's different than college," he said. "You don't line up (against) Jared Allens every time (in college), and he's got to understand that every Sunday in this league there is somebody pretty good lined up on you, and that will come with experience."
Marinelli did say that Cherilus responded with an energetic practice week, and that the player must continue to refine his technique before he's back itno the starting line-up. According to Marinelli, that's just fine, adding that he enjoys developing the skillset of young players.
But, he said, nothing will be given out.
"You don't want to give people stuff," he said. "You know what I'm saying? You hand it to him? I'm just not about that and never will be."