Is NFL Playing the Race Card?

A day after firing coach Marty Mornhinweg, VU has been told by some members of the Detroit media close to the situation that the Lions are scared about hiring Steve Mariucci in what some feel is reverse discrimination.

Shortly after the Lions fired Marty Mornhinweg, VU started getting correspondence from Detroit saying that at least one media outlet was pushing that Dennis Green, not Steve Mariucci, would be the next coach of the Lions.

In some contacts made in the past 24 hours, a strange spectacle is emerging in Detroit. The Lions have stated the names of only two coaches as short-list candidates -- Mooch and Green -- adding that other top assistants would be considered.

Yet, this has been far from a well-kept secret that the Lions were interested in Mariucci. The team had informal talks with him after the 2001 season while he was under contract with the 49ers, looking to potentially swing a trade a la Jon Gruden to the Bucs. But the word coming out from some close to the situation has a more disturbing tone to it.

From what VU was told Tuesday from a pair of veteran media types close to the Lions, the team is afraid the league will impose sanctions if they sign Mariucci -- or at least sign him too soon. The league has promised punishment for hiring of new coaches without considering minority candidates. If the same confidence the organization had in Mornhinweg existed before he attended the college all-star games existed before Mooch was fired by the Niners, why then did it change shortly after he was fired?

While those VU talked to said that it is still expected that Mariucci will end up in Detroit, Green isn't out of contention yet and that the entire process will likely be done with a Homeland Security type of secrecy.

* Brad Johnson made the rounds Monday and Tuesday. After appearing with Keyshawn Johnson on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" Monday, the Super Bowl QB was on with the KQRS-FM morning show Tuesday (joined later by Jeff Christy, another friend of the KQ-crew). Later he was on the syndicated "Jim Rome Show" and then did an embarassing dance reminiscent of that third-string center for the Lakers. Stick to throwing the ball, Brad. Your dancing and rap skills need to be honed better before doing your own version of "American Idol" in front of thousands of fans in Tampa.
* For those of you going through NFL withdrawl already, start the clock ticking. The 2003 preseason begins Aug. 4 when the Packers and Chiefs meet in the Hall of Fame Game at Canton, Ohio.
* Whispers have included the Vikings as one of the teams that may be interested in free agent WR Antonio Freeman. He was thrown out as a leverage chip by Mike Tice to get Derrick Alexander to sign last summer and, while Freeman will likely have more suitors this year than last, the Vikings have been mentioned as one of the teams that may have an interest in another short-term deal for the former Packer.
* The Bucs have given former Viking and current Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin permission to talk the 49ers about their job opening. Apparently Bill Walsh isn't as enthusiastic about Green getting a job with the Niners as he has been with him getting a gig somewhere else.

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