(ALLEN PARK, MI)--The Detroit Lions held a 3:30 press conference Monday to announce the firing of head coach Marty Mornhinweg. Although Vice President Matt Millen did not acknowledge any deal with Steve Mariucci, sources have told TheInsiders.com that a deal with former 49ers' head coach is still imminent. The deal could span four years, worth around $12 million.
Mariucci, reached this afternoon, claimed that he "had not been contacted by the Lions about coaching next season." Still all indications are that Mariucci is the man and will be announced as the new head coach and player personnel director later this week.
During his press conference, Millen told reporters that there were a "bunch of candidates" that Detroit was considering, and that he will obey the interview process set forth by commissioner Paul Tagliabue earlier in the week that minority coaching candidates are given a fair opportunity.
This might only delay the inevitable, however.
Mornhinweg, meanwhile, appeared on local radio stations today to confirm that he has been let go after compiling a 5-27 record in two years as head coach of the Lions. Mornhinweg's agent Bob Lamonte, did not immediately return calls to confirm his clients firing.
When asked of Mornhinweg's reaction, Millen said the meeting was short-lived.
"Marty and I had a very brief conversation and he left," stated Millen. "He handled very professionally as I would have expected him to."
This move would be the boldest yet by the Ford family in their attempt to build a winner in Detroit. Mariucci is one of the most respected young coaches in the business and represents a change in philosophy for the Ford family. Traditionally, the team has been slow to fire head coaches, but with the success of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under head coach Jon Gruden, it appears the Lions are ready to become more pro-active.
Millen, who was grilled by reporters during the press conference, stated that letting Mornhinweg go was something that he felt had to be done to bring a winner into Detroit.
"I want to win, and I want to win now," said Millen. In regards to Mariucci, Millen was brief.
Mariucci compiled a 49-36-0 as head coach of the 49'ers. One of thirteen head coaches since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 to lead his team to a division title in his first season. He established an NFL mark for consecutive wins by a rookie head coach with an 11-game winning streak. He served as quarterbacks coach for the Green Bay Packers (1992-95). His first pro position was in 1985 when he was receivers coach for the USFL's Orlando Renegades. Later that fall, he had a brief stint with the Los Angeles Rams as quality control coach.
A native of Iron Mountain, MI, Mariucci would appear to be the perfect fit for the team and many critics wondered why it took the Lions as long as they did to make a move once Mariucci became available. An interesting sidebar to this are the firings of Kevin Warren and Bill Tobin. Those moves were widely speculated as clearing the way for Mariucci to have the broadest powers of any Lions head coach since Bobby Ross.
Mariucci will reportedly assume the duties of Bill Tobin and also become a vice-president. This is the dicey part of the proposition because Mike Holmgren attempted to perform both roles and was not successful. It is unknown if Mariucci will keep the current scouting staff led by Sheldon White and Charlie Sanders or whether he will raid the 49'ers scouting staff.
Mariucci will likely broom the entire Lions coaching staff with the exception of Bobby Williams and Sherman Lewis. Lewis and Mariucci worked together in Green Bay and San Francisco, while Williams clearly was hired to pave the way for the the drafting of Michigan State wide receiver Charles Rogers.
Stay tuned to LionsFans.com as we continue to bring you details of this development.