Column: Don't blame the Lions, blame the NFL

LionsFans.com columnist Adrian Donofrio states that the recent problems regarding the delayed hiring of former 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci can be attributed to the NFL, and their problematic policy in interviewing minority candidates.

When Matt Millen held the press conference announcing that Marty Mornhinweg was to be fired, he didn't mention a replacement.

He didn't need to, considering it was quickly becoming obvious Steve Mariucci was the man Millen had between his crosshairs.

However, Millen didn't say that directly. He said that the team would "go through the process." Meaning the Lions would avoid being fined by the league and interview a minority candidate before hiring Mariucci.

The problem is that minority candidates are quickly declining the opportunity to interview with the Lions, knowing that Mariucci is the overwhelmingly likely hire for the job. They know that they're just being used by Detroit to get around the NFL policy. And they want no part in that.

Who can blame them? Nobody. It's degrading.

The NFL implemented a policy with good intentions towards minorities, however it's backfired with brute force. It's making minorities look like a toy to franchises that already have their coach in mind. (Read: Detroit.)

How absurd is it for Millen to have to go through this? Mariucci could have been here by now, giving his input on the team. Reviewing key situations that need attention this offseason. But Millen has to pull the sword from the stone to cut through the myriad of red tape the league has wrapped around hiring the man they want.

The sadder fact is -- people and media alike seem to be saying that the Lions are contributing towards making minorities look bad. Which, technically is true, however they are simply following rules. The NFL put this up to them. The Lions have no choice.

Although it would be great for the Lions to just continue at the futile attempts of interviewing minority candidates, just to be rejected over and over like a nerd before a high school dance, it's not the best timing to prove to the league that they made a mistake. They need to install Mariucci's plans into the team. He needs to be at the facilities. He needs to review the team's details, and decide what to do with it, especially if he's going to have input on how the team shapes itself. The team doesn't have time to show the league how stupid the rule is.

Another option is to just interview in-house, i.e. Sherm Lewis, or even Bobby Williams. But who says they would go for it? And if having an interview opportunity rejected is a punch in the face to the NFL policy, then interviewing in house, taking the easy way out is a crisp uppercut to the stomach. It's the easy way out, showing the league that there are loopholes through the rule, and that it's not taken seriously.

What Millen needs to do is make a statement while getting what the Lions want and need in an extingent manner. Hire Mariucci. Pay him his $4 mill a year. Tell him not to worry about the rule, and to go watch some tapes or something.

Release a statement admitting the Lions willingly dismissed the rule. Cite that if the best candidate was a minority, you would have hired him. Note that more than one candidate has rejected your offer for an interview, and that there was no lack of trying. Take the fine.

The rule is ridiculous. In a world where winning is everything, and Millen's job is in jeaopardy if the year doesn't pan out, do you think Millen would hire a majority candidate in an incident of racism? Please.

Something needs to happen, and it needs to happen soon. The Lions need to take a stand and they are in a perfect situation to benefit themselves and the league, in the long run.


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