Speculation is abundant around Detroit this week, with Steve Mariucci being removed from his head coach status in San Francisco. Rumors are swirling about Mariucci coming to coach the Lions, incidentally replacing current coach Marty Mornhinweg. More on him in a minute. Let's go over the entire situation first.
Many pundits say that if GM Matt Millen is worth his salt he will go out and get Mariucci to become the head coach for Detroit. But in truth, Matt is in a tough situation.
First, Steve Mariucci's agent has said that Mariucci will be in television this year, and then weigh his options from there. It's worked for others, and it gives Mooch a chance to wait for the right situation to open up. So the availability is not necessarily as open as many believe, although if Mariucci was given a blockbuster offer, it would be unwise to turn it down.
Secondly, Marty Mornhinweg has been assured that his job is secure. Matt Millen announced this along with the news of his job security around a month ago. Millen has been scrutinized many times about going back on his word, if he hired Mooch, all the criticism would break through again.
He did it with Johnnie Morton, now with Kansas City. He told Morton previously he'd offer him the contract that kept him with the Lions. Although the truth will never really be known, many believe he didn't even bother.
He let Jeff Hartings go, now a Steeler. The difference in monetary offerings was minimal. However, a deal was never struck. He also cut DT James Jones, a well vested and respected veteran the day before the regular season. All of these things have severely tarnished his reputation, not to mention the Chicago radio show fiasco in which he critcized a Lions' player for being a "coward." Promising Mornhinweg his job and subsequently firing him would not look good in many people's eyes.
On the other hand, Mornhinweg is a combined 5-27 the past two years. Mariucci has only lost 10 times in the same time span. Mornhinweg has no playoff experience as a head coach, Mooch does. Mornhinweg has never coached a winning team. His teams have never been above .500. Mariucci was constantly scrutinized when his team dipped below the .500 mark, and was expected to win nearly ever game. Can you say that about Mornhinweg? No, probably just the opposite. How many games were the Lions favored to win this year? How many games were the 49ers favored to win?
Another thing that would be appealing to the Lions is that Mariucci runs the west coast offense, as does Marty, meaning the transition would be relatively seamless. If Mornhinweg has another poor year next time around, it would be likely that Matt Millen, or whoever the GM may be at the time, would want to pick up a coach that uses the west coast style of offense, so the players don't have to experience anymore growing pains. Mariucci seems to be the perfect candidate under those conditions, having used the offense in its birthplace, San Francisco.
Mariucci would have a homecoming of sorts, in his hometown Michigan. He'd also reunite with pal Tom Izzo, head basketball coach for Michigan State. He'd be highly touted in Detroit, who hasn't had a high profile coach in forever. While he was just another coach with the 49ers and their unlimited pedigree, the fans of Detroit would embrace him. It's a win-win for Mariucci, who would only need to come close to a .500 record to be labeled as a success.
But all points aside, it seems unlikely that Mariucci will become head coach for the Lions this year. Even if you disregard his agent's comments about a possible one-year TV sabbatical, Matt Millen doesn't need another tarnish on his rep. Even though hiring Mariucci would be a good move, going back on his word with Mornhinweg would not help his cause at all. Keep in mind this is the same person who negotiates with all of those key free agents that Detroit desperately needs. His reputation is of utmost importance.
Hiring Mariucci now would ultimately be a good move personnel-wise. However, waiting a year might be the wise choice. If Mornhinweg fails as many expect him to, then Mariucci will be at ESPN waiting for a phone call. If Mornhinweg does well, you pass on Mariucci and continue improving under Mornhinweg. Either way the Lions will benefit. Maybe not this year, but ultimately.