(DETROIT, MI) — There was no pounding of the podium, no mentioning of "bars set high". There was no promise of "winning now" and no mention of the words "Super" and "Bowl" together.
Instead, a polished, charming and charismatic Steve Mariucci thanked the Ford family for a tremendous opportunity and promised to hit the ground running.
Mariucci, 47, was named head coach of the Lions in an elaborately staged press conference on the 30-yard line of the West End Zone of Ford Field. Sartorially splendid in a deep-blue double breasted suit, the newest Lion spoke optimistically about the players he was inheriting and the challenge of building the Lions into a winner.
"This is fantastic," stated Mariucci. "I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be here."
After thanking the Ford family, Matt Millen, Tom Lewand and agent Gary O'Hagan of IMG, Mariucci got to the real reason he made it to Detroit.
"I'd like to thank my wife for allowing me to do this," cracked the new Lions head coach. "She made me promise that I wouldn't get my Yooper accent back anytime soon," alluding to his roots to Iron Mountain in Michigan's upper peninsula.
Mariucci admitted the lure of taking a year off from twenty-four straight years of coaching to catch up on lost opportunities with his family was strong. "I was at home in California and I was really planning on and strongly considering taking a year off. I've never done that before. I've been coaching for twenty-four years and I've been around the block a little bit."
Still, the allure and challenge of rebuilding a moribund Lions team and the dollars thrown at him, a reported $25 million over five years, was too much to turn down.
He had help make his decision in the form of his childhood friend Tom Izzo, head coach of Michigan State University's men's basketball team. "Who shows up? Tom Izzo drives over from East Lansing and we spend the entire night talking about this possibility. I hadn't talked to Tom a whole lot about it. He's busy with his season and we typically run through these sorts of things with each other."
So what made Mariucci accept the job? "We would all like to entertain the idea of taking a year off. It sounds good. But….I'm a football coach. I don't sit around. I thought, given this opportunity—it's a fantastic opportunity—given the parameters of who I'm working for and where it is, it's back in Michigan amongst family and friends. Certainly that was taken in to account."
"To think that UM can sell out, Michigan State can sell out and the Lions can sell out all in the same weekend without batting an eye, that's a passion for football in the State of Michigan. All those things added up to saying, 'that's the place I'd like to be.'"
"There's a lot of work to do," Mariucci continued. "We hit it running this morning. The first order of business, I have to visit with all of the coaches here. It's a fine coaching staff, there's a lot of good players here."
Regarding the coaching staff that is currently in place, Mariucci stated all will get an interview and have a chance to stay on, but that some changes are inevitable, in fact, he had already named three new coaches to his staff.
The new coach mention that after assembling a staff his next priority was to "get working on free agency and the evaluation process." This shows that Mariucci will have a large hand in the player personnel arena, something he never had in San Francisco. Mariucci also credited former Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg for his work in preparation for the NFL draft.
What can Lions fans expect from Mariucci?
"I'm committed to delivering the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit a championship football team. That's all I ever think about. We're going to develop a team that's a contender, develop some individual pro-bowl type guys—that's our job. We don't have a time frame. We don't make any predictions. All I can promise is that I work day and night to accomplish that end [result] and see if this city can win a world championship at some point. Our work has begun today and we're going to hit it running."