L>floorballcoach.org: NFL – Mariucci finalizes $25 million deal as Lions” new coach
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DETROIT — Steve Mariucci is officially headed to the Detroit Lions” den.
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Mariucci was hired as coach of the Lions on Tuesday, a week after the team fired Marty Mornhinweg. floorballcoach.org has confirmed that Mariucci”s deal is for five years and will pay him $5 million annually. He will be introduced at a Wednesday press conference, Lions spokesman Bill Keenist said.
“We are thrilled. This is a huge step for our team andorganization,”” Lions chief executive Matt Millen said. “I haveknown Steve since he got into the NFL as an assistant, and he hascontinually impressed me with his knowledge of the game and hisability to handle players and people.””
Mariucci, born and raised in Iron Mountain, Mich., was fired by the San Francisco 49ers after six seasons. He becomes the Lions fourth coach in four seasons.
Mornhinweg, 5-27 in two seasons, was fired Jan. 27, a monthafter the Lions finished 3-13. His two-year record was the worst in team history.
Mariucci was to have earned a base salary of $2.25 million under his old contract with the 49ers, which would have been paid out over a 30-month period. His deal with the Lions, negotiated over the past four or five days by agent Gary O”Hagan, equals the one awarded Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier last year.
Mariucci was 60-43 record with the 49ers, and coached them tothe playoffs four times. The 49ers were eliminated in the secondround of the playoffs this season, losing to Tampa Bay 31-6.
Mariucci clashed with 49ers owner John York, and was dismissedthree days after the loss to the Buccaneers on Jan. 12. Hispostseason record was 3-4 — the Lions have just one playoff winsince winning the NFL title in 1957.
In addition to financial implications, with Mariucci set to move to new status as one of the league”s highest-paid head coaches, he will have more input into football decisions than during a six-year San Francisco tenure.
Mariucci, 47, will have the title of head coach only, but the contract with the Lions will permit him to review and participate in football-related decisions.
Mariucci presided over a remarkably brief rebuilding period inSan Francisco, but it wasn”t enough to save his job — even with ayear left on his contract.
He was the loser in a battle of wills featuring York, generalmanager Terry Donahue and Hall of Fame coach-turned-adviser BillWalsh — none of whom was around when Mariucci was hired in 1997.
The reasons for Mariucci”s departure were murky — perhaps bydesign for an organization that apparently felt Mariucci wasn”t theman to lead the young, talented team he helped to build fromscratch.
Mariucci”s flirtations with other jobs in the last offseasonalso didn”t engender feelings of loyalty from York.
“I think it”ll be good. Good for him, because he will be in asituation where he”s actually wanted and appreciated,” Lionsdefensive end Robert Porcher said Tuesday. “I think it”ll be goodfrom a team standpoint because now our general manager gets the guythat he”s always wanted.
“And I think from the players” standpoint, it”ll be excellentbecause he brings in that instant credibility with his winningrecord in San Francisco.”
This season, San Francisco went 10-6 and reclaimed the NFC Westtitle before making the second-biggest comeback in NFL playoffhistory to beat the New York Giants 39-38.
Mariucci repeatedly said he wanted to keep his family in the SanFrancisco Bay area, and he would be willing to take a minimal raiseor even coach the final year of his contract without an extension.
He will be about 90 miles away from best friend Tom Izzo,Michigan State”s basketball coach. Mariucci and Izzo grew uptogether and attended Northern Michigan. Mariucci was a three-time All-American quarterback at the university.
Mariucci has been Detroit”s leading candidate since the Lionsfired Mornhinweg. On Wednesday night and Thursday, Mariucci becamethe only coach to have an in-person interview with the Lions.
Millen never publicly named any othercandidate for the job but said the Lions would do their best tocomply with the NFL”s policy of interviewing at least one minoritycandidate.
O”Hagan, also the agent for former Minnesotacoach Dennis Green, refused to comment on numerous reports thatGreen refused to interview with the Lions because they appeared tohave their sights set only on Mariucci.
Attorney Cyrus Mehri, who along with attorney Johnnie Cochranled a campaign for more minority hiring in the NFL, wasdisappointed with Detroit”s hiring process.
“We believe this is a breach of an agreement (Lions owner)William Clay Ford made with 31 other owners,”” Mehri said Tuesday.”By essentially crowning Mariucci as the next head coach beforedoing a single interview, the Lions discouraged African-Americancoaches from putting their hat in the ring in Detroit. Millen inpublic and private statements could not look African-Americancandidates in the eye and tell them they had a fair shot. I don”tblame the coaches who didn”t want to be a part of a sham interview.
“We”re competing for the soul of the NFL, which has been basedon a good old boys network — not fair competition for jobs. Theball is in the league”s court now. If they condone this, they haveripped the heart out of “The Rooney Plan,” because what Matt Millenhas done harkens back to the good old boys days.””
The NFL”s new policy, announced in late December, said ownersagreed they would “seriously”” interview at least one minoritycandidate for each coaching vacancy. The policy was developed by acommittee headed by Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney, following a reporton minority hiring issued by a group headed by Mehri.
“The Lions” selection process fell short of what our committeerecommends for all clubs as agreed in December,”” Rooney said in astatement Tuesday. “I will discuss this with the committee and theLions to see what occurred and where to proceed in the future.””
Information from floorballcoach.org senior writer Len Pasquarelli and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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