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Out like a Lion

Detroit fires Mornhinweg after two dismal seasons

Posted: Monday January 27, 2003 2:06 PM
Updated: Tuesday January 28, 2003 7:43 PM

Mornhinweg 'shocked'
PLYMOUTH TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) -- Marty Mornhinweg is stunned that he was fired after going 5-27 as the Detroit Lions' head coach.

Well, stunned at the way it happened.

"I was shocked. There was no explanation. That conversation took two seconds," Mornhinweg said Tuesday, a day after team president Matt Millen dismissed him.

"The timing is suspect, but a lot of things aren't fair."

"It is a results-oriented business," Mornhinweg said. "I understand that. I'm the first to understand that -- now. I've been at the very, very top, I've been in the middle, and I've been at the bottom."

Mornhinweg was widely criticized this season for choosing to take the wind instead of the ball after the Lions won an overtime coin toss against Chicago. The Bears received the kickoff and wound up driving to the winning field goal.

Asked if he thought his Lions legacy would be that much-criticized decision, Mornhinweg said: "Oh, no. I'd do that again." 
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -- Marty Mornhinweg was fired as head coach of the Detroit Lions on Monday after a 3-13 season, the second-worst record in the NFL.

Detroit was 5-27 under Mornhinweg over the last two seasons, including a road record of 0-16. The Lions lost their last eight games this season, and only Cincinnati finished with a worse record.

Lions chief executive Matt Millen, with the blessing of team owner William Clay Ford Sr., said on Dec. 31 that Mornhinweg would return as head coach.

On Monday, Millen said Mornhinweg was fired as part of the process of moving forward.

"We have to continue to make the best decision to get this franchise going in the right direction," Millen said.

"I want to win, and I want to win now." he said.

Mornhinweg became the fifth NFL head coach to be fired since the end of the season, following dismissals at Cincinnati, Dallas, Jacksonville and San Francisco.

Mornhinweg matched Chris Palmer's two-year record of futility for a new head coach since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978. Palmer coached the Cleveland Browns in 1999 and 2000.

Palmer, though, was coaching an expansion team. Mornhinweg took over a team that went 9-7 and narrowly missed the playoffs.

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* Mornhinweg thinks the Lions will become competitive.
* Millen has his sights set on Steve Mariucci.
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Possible replacements include former Minnesota head coach Dennis Green and former San Francisco head coach Steve Mariucci, a Michigan native, who was released earlier this month.

"I spoke to Steve and I would like to speak to him again," Millen said.

Asked if Mariucci's availability was a factor in firing Mornhinweg, Millen said, "It's certainly a factor, but I don't think it's a big factor or a main factor."

Millen said he would consider minority candidates, a process mandated by the NFL this season.

Mornhinweg had never been a head coach at any level before taking the job with the Lions. He replaced Gary Moeller, who took over for Bobby Ross midway through the 2000 season.

Mornhinweg was widely criticized this season for choosing to take the wind instead of the ball after the Lions won an overtime coin toss against Chicago. The Bears got the kickoff and drove to the winning field goal.

Been around the block
Mornhinweg's coaching chronology
Detroit Lions
Head coach, 2001-02

San Francisco 49ers
Offensive coordinator, 1999-00
Off. coordinator/QBs, 1997-98

Green Bay Packers
Quarterbacks, 1996
Off. assistant/Quality control, 1995

Northern Arizona University
Offensive coordinator, 1994

Offensive line, 1992-93
Slots/Tight ends, 1991

Southeast Missouri State
Off. coordinator/QBs, 1989-90

No. Arizona
Running backs, 1988

Texas-El Paso
Graduate assistant, 1986-87

Receivers, 1985 

When Mornhinweg was hired he set the team's sights on a first Super Bowl trip. The Lions have had only one playoff victory since winning the 1957 NFL title.

"The bar is high," he said. "The goal for this organization is to win Super Bowls."

Mornhinweg had insisted the team's weak record stemmed from failed drafts from the previous regime, along with aging or injured players.

The past two years, the Lions have gotten rid of five one-time first-round picks -- Herman Moore, Johnnie Morton, Bryant Westbrook, Terry Fair and Aaron Gibson. The Lions also lost Ron Rice, Kurt Schulz and Stephen Boyd to career-ending injuries.

The Lions will have the second pick in April's draft, and expect to have enough salary-cap space to sign a couple free agents.

The Lions began the season excited about rookie quarterback Joey Harrington and returning downtown from suburban Pontiac for the first time since 1974 to play at Ford Field.

Harrington, the third pick in the draft, showed some flashes after he became a starter in Week 3, but he regressed before being sidelined with an irregular heartbeat in the 14th game.

Related information
2003 NFL Head Coaching Changes
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