Lions Fire Coach Steve Mariucci

The Detroit Lions have fired Steve Mariucci and some of his staff, after the team dropped to 4-7 on the season and 15-28 overall during his tenure.

Mariucci out as Lions’ coach (ESPN)

The disappointing Detroit Lions fired coach Steve Mariucci and some of his assistants on Monday. After Detroit lost 27-7 to the Atlanta Falcons on Thanksgiving to fall to 4-7, reports swirled that the team was considering firing Mariucci. When Mariucci was not let go over the weekend, some thought his job was safe for the final five games of the regular season.

The Lions called an afternoon news conference that will feature team president Matt Millen.

Mariucci and the assistants, tight ends coach coach Andy Sugarman and OL coach Pat Morris, were fired late Monday morning.

The Lions have lost four of five games since a solid start put them atop the NFC North with the Chicago Bears. The team has collapsed on and off the field with players failing to produce and some bickering with one another and questioning the coaches’ game plans.

Mariucci’s record with the Lions was 15-28. His hiring was hailed by fans and media alike, but he was not able to turn around a team that has won one playoff game since 1957.

The irony is that Millen, whose idiotic drafting is mostly to blame for the team’s mess, is doing the firing. In successive drafts with top ten picks, the team has picked a mediocre quarterback (despite having a talented young Mike McMahon already starting for them) and three wide receivers with their first round picks.

Millen hired both Mariucci and his predecessor, Marty Mornhinweg, and drafted or signed most of the players currently on the Lions — and Detroit is an NFL-worst 20-55 since 2001. Millen, a former NFL linebacker and TV analyst, was given a five-year extension before this season.

Mariucci has proven that he can coach a talented team; Millen has proven that he was a better analyst than GM.

SI’s Don Banks argues that Mariucci wasn’t suited for [a] young team like [the] Lions.

The style that worked for Mariucci when he took over in San Francisco in 1997 didn’t work with the Lions. The 49ers were a veteran team coming off the George Siefert era. They didn’t require a lot of discipline, nurturing or teaching, and Mariucci’s easy-going, personable nature provided just the right touch.

But such was not the case in Detroit, where the young Lions were rebuilding through the draft, trying to establish an identity and end a playoff drought that began with the 2000 season. Nowhere was Mariucci’s lack of success more apparent than with Lions quarterback of the future, Joey Harrington. Mariucci and his staff never really believed in the 2002 first-round pick. And Millen felt that undermined Harrington’s chances for success.

Mariucci also never found a way to extract much production from all of Detroit’s first-round picks on offense. Receivers Charles Rogers, Roy Williams and Mike Williams have yet to be worthy of their draft status, and running back Kevin Jones hasn’t followed up this year on his outstanding rookie debut of 2004.

Had the team drafted a couple of linemen and fewer “skill” players, it might have helped.

Update: Harrington’s career passing stats:

Year Team G GS Att Comp Pct Yards YPA Lg TD Int Tkld 20+ 40+ Rate
2002 Detroit Lions 14 12 429 215 50.1 2294 5.35 64 12 16 8/75 28 6 59.9
2003 Detroit Lions 16 16 554 309 55.8 2880 5.20 72 17 22 9/55 24 3 63.9
2004 Detroit Lions 16 16 489 274 56.0 3047 6.23 62 19 12 36/196 43 4 77.5
2005 Detroit Lions 9 9 260 148 56.9 1522 5.85 86 8 11 22/125 16 3 66.5
TOTAL 55 53 1732 946 54.6 9743 5.63 86 56 61 75/451 111 16 67.1

That’s quite mediocre for a quarterback with 53 starts to his name, who was picked 3rd overall in his draft class, and who has three wideouts who were also picked in the 1st round to throw to and a 1st round running back to hand off to.

This isn’t to say that, with a better offensive line and/or an offensive system more conducive to his talents, that Harrington might not become a top-notch NFL passer. But that he hasn’t in four seasons is telling. Especially since Mike McMahon seems to be doing quite well on a very beaten up Philadelphia team that is all but mathematically out of the playoff hunt.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. V the K says:

    I hope people will start laying off Joey Harrington now. He’s not a bad quarterback, he just hasn’t had anybody to throw to. Although I guess I’m as guilty as anyone.

  2. RA says:

    The Houston Texans are having the same troubles. They have a good couch and quarterback but lack both an offensive and defensive line. The person in the front office doing the drafting should be fired. Not the couch. Alas, that is not how it works.

  3. bryan says:

    Yeah, I’m not ready to call harrington mediocre just yet. But Millen needs to go.

  4. James Joyner says:

    The general rule of thumb is that a player should be productive by his third year in the NFL. Harrington has been starting nearly 4 full seasons and has been mostly mediocre:

  5. ICallMasICM says:

    His inability to win with sucky players is what doomed him.

  6. Big Dick says:

    You guys are all CRAZY. Moooch was scewed in S.F. and now he’s getting screwed in Detroit. I knew there was a reason I was a Chevy man. Forget Detroit and forget Ford. Who else in Mooch’s league are you going to be able to attract in Detroit??? I wouls rather coach the Texans than the Lions.