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Marinelli takes over Lions
The Bucs defensive line coach agrees in principle for his first chance as a head coach, and he doesn't want to go alone.
By RICK STROUD
Published January 19, 2006
TAMPA - Rod Marinelli was scheduled to depart Detroit on Wednesday afternoon after completing his second interview for the Lions coaching job when team president Matt Millen asked if he wouldn't mind staying another day.
There was no rush. The Bucs defensive line coach had waited his whole life for the chance to become a head coach.
Marinelli, 56, agreed in principle Wednesday night to a four-year contract to become the Lions coach. The team was finalizing details of the agreement and has scheduled a press conference at 10 this morning to introduce Marinelli.
"I guess it proves the old saying that good things come to those who wait," said Bucs linebackers coach Joe Barry, Marinelli's son-in-law. "He's been denied four times a chance to be a defensive coordinator (by the Bucs), and you've got to take your hat off to Matt Millen for deciding he's going to hire the best coach."
Marinelli is expected to ask the Bucs for permission to hire Barry as the Lions defensive coordinator. Barry has one year remaining on his contract with Tampa Bay and knows general manager Bruce Allen and coach Jon Gruden have a policy of not letting coaches leave until their pact expires.
The Bucs denied permission Tuesday for the Green Bay Packers to interview Barry for their defensive coordinator position. But Barry hopes the Bucs make an exception for family.
"Rod always said if he got a head coaching job, he'd want to take me as defensive coordinator," Barry said. "I know I'm under contract for one more year, and I know their standing rules. But if it did get to that point where Rod went through the protocol of asking permission, I'd hope to be the exception."
Marinelli's hiring continued the offseason raid on the Bucs defensive coaching staff under coordinator Monte Kiffin. Defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin left to become the Vikings defensive coordinator. Assistant defensive backs coach Raheem Morris is defensive coordinator at Kansas State. Barry is the only defensive position coach still under contract with the Bucs.
Having never been a head coach at any level, Marinelli may not be the most popular choice among Lions fans. But since Millen became the top executive five years ago, the Lions have compiled an NFL-worst 21-59 record.
In the past Millen wasted little time hiring a coach. He quickly struck a deal with Marty Mornhinweg in 2001. Two years later he took only a few days to hire former 49ers coach Steve Mariucci, drawing a $200,000 fine from the NFL for not following the league's minority hiring policy.
This time Millen was in no hurry, interviewing interim coach Dick Jauron, Steelers offensive line coach Russ Grimm, Broncos offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, Browns offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon, Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, 49ers assistant head coach Mike Singletary and former Saints coach Jim Haslett.
"Sometimes it seemed like it wasn't ever going to happen," said Chris Barry, Marinelli's daughter. "I always told him there's something better out there for you and that he would be the right fit at the right time. He likes to go and build things, and he's always done that wherever he's been."
Marinelli spent the past 10 seasons in Tampa Bay as defensive line coach and had the title of assistant head coach added in 2002. Under his direction the Bucs set an NFL record by recording at least one sack in 69 straight games from '99 to '03. In fact, Marinelli was the one who coined the phrase "Pound the Rock," which became the Bucs motto during their Super Bowl season in 2002.
But Marinelli's value to the Bucs extended well beyond the players he taught on the defensive line.
A disciplinarian and technician on the field, Marinelli is a quiet, inspirational leader off it. He interviewed for the Oakland Raiders coaching job Monday and traveled Tuesday night to suburban Detroit to interview for a second time with Millen. On Wednesday, Marinelli met with Lions owner William Clay Ford and vice chairman Bill Ford.
The Lions were supposed to fly Haslett in for a second interview this week. But he never heard from the club regarding his travel plans from Louisiana by Wednesday evening, and he figured Millen had found his man.
"There's no question in my mind that Rod will be successful because of his consistency," Barry said. "It's the truest measure of his performance. Look at his track record. Everywhere he's been, the players have played hard for him.
"It's not just the defensive linemen. Players just respond to him. Ask Brad Johnson, Keenan McCardell or John Lynch. He touches all those guys, and now he will have an affect on all the players."