Out like a Lion
Detroit fires Mornhinweg after two dismal seasonsPosted: Monday January 27, 2003 2:06 PM
Updated: Tuesday January 28, 2003 7:43 PM
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.
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.
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.