ALLEN PARK, Mich. (Jan. 19, 2006) -- The Detroit Lions hired Rod Marinelli because they hope he's the tough coach they need to turn around the team that has been the NFL's worst since 2001.
Marinelli, who spent the past 10 seasons in Tampa Bay as defensive line coach, certainly looked and sounded like the right fit.
"There's one voice for discipline. Mine," the Vietnam veteran said during his introductory news conference. "There's one voice for leadership. Mine."
Lions president Matt Millen acknowledged the team he began crafting five years ago -- which has compiled a league-worst 21-59 record -- has been soft.
"That's my fault," said Millen, who later added he will never quit his job in Detroit.
Millen interviewed 12 coaches the past two weeks, a hiring process that was in stark contrast to the brief searches leading to the hirings of Steve Mariucci and Marty Mornhinweg.
"It was a learning experience for me," he said.
Marinelli, who has a four-year contract, bristled at the notion of facing a difficult learning curve next season when he is a head coach for the first time at any level.
He had the title of assistant head coach added by the Buccaneers in 2002, a role he also had at Arizona State and California during his 20 years as a college coach.
"That has prepared me to be a head coach," the 56-year-old Marinelli said.
Marinelli said he had a couple of opportunities to be a defensive coordinator, but Tampa Bay denied suitors permission to interview him.
Millen is not bothered by Marinelli's lack of head-coaching experience.
"It's been done before, there have been guys that have come from the same route," Millen said. "To me, it's less about what they've done, and more about who they are.
"I've been around coordinators that haven't coordinated."
Marinelli is the latest protégé of Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy to get a head coaching job.
"Another one of Tony Dungy's apples has fallen from the tree," Kansas City coach Herm Edwards said in a statement released by the Lions. "(Chicago's) Lovie Smith was part of his staff. I was fortunate to be a part of his staff, and now Rod Marinelli."
Though Marinelli has not led a football team, he attracted interest from at least one other NFL franchise with an opening this offseason. The Oakland Raiders interviewed Marinelli on Jan. 16, then he traveled to suburban Detroit for a second interview with Millen.
Marinelli was scheduled to depart from Detroit the night of Jan. 18 -- when former New Orleans coach Jim Haslett expected to arrive for a second interview -- but ended up staying to negotiate his contract.
"Football is a show-me game. I'm tired of talking," said Marinelli, who refused to predict whether the Lions would make the playoffs next season. "Let our film talk for us."
Dick Jauron, who took over when Mariucci was fired in November, was one of many candidates Millen interviewed. Among the coaches Millen also interviewed were: Haslett, Pittsburgh offensive line coach Russ Grimm; Denver offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak; Cleveland offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon, New York Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis and San Francisco assistant head coach Mike Singletary.
Marinelli's coaching career began in 1973 as an assistant at Rosemead (Calif.) High School. He was an assistant at Utah State from 1976-82, before moving on to California for nine seasons, Arizona State for three seasons and Southern California for one season.
Marinelli helped Tampa Bay establish an NFL record with 69 consecutive games with at least one sack from 1999-03, and win the Super Bowl three years ago.
"He does a great job of understanding how to motivate and how to speak to people," Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks said on a conference call. "He takes that to another art form because he believes when he tells it."
When Lions quarterback Joey Harrington outlined what type of coach the team needed earlier this month, he seemed to describe Marinelli.
"This is still a young team and an impressionable team, so it has to be someone who is very strong in what they believe it," Harrington said. "It has to be somebody who may force you do something, even though you may not like it."
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2006, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved