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Lions fire Marinelli

Larry Lage, Associated Press

ALLEN PARK, Mich. ” Rod Marinelli might be a good head coach. He just isn’t going to find out for sure in Detroit.

Marinelli inherited a Matt Millen-created mess and compounded his problems by reuniting with some former Tampa Bay Buccaneers whose best years were in the past. The result was the NFL’s first 0-16 team and a three-year record of 10-38 for Marinelli, who was fired Monday by the Lions.

Instead of making excuses or explaining why it didn’t work out, Marinelli took the high road.

“If I’d have done better and won more games, then we’d have been fine,” he said.

The peak of the Marinelli era was midway through last season when the Lions were 6-2.

Since then, they’re 1-23.

“If you would’ve told me about a year and a half ago that we would be in this situation, I would’ve told you, ‘No way,”‘ quarterback Dan Orlovsky said. “I honestly thought Rod was the guy.

“He came in with the old-school, hard-nose mentality to break the mold and change the culture.”

Marinelli got a taste of how difficult his job would be during his first minicamp.

“Some of the work ethic kind of surprised me when I got here,” he said. “That’s why I kind of dug in on that.

“I didn’t think it was that tough, but I got turned in and that surprised me.”

At least one player filed a grievance because of the intensity of minicamp. The team was punished by banning players from the practice facility for a couple of days.

Marinelli eventually raved about how hard his players practiced for him, insisting he could envision the results showing up on Sundays, but it just didn’t happen.

Especially, this year.

“You can’t go 0-16 and expect to keep your job,” Marinelli said.

The leaders of Detroit’s front office, though, did just that.

Lions owner William Clay Ford elevated Tom Lewand to team president and Martin Mayhew to general manager, announcing the moves in the same news release that included the decision to fire Marinelli.

Ford also dismissed defensive coordinator Joe Barry, Marinelli’s son-in-law, assistant offensive line coach Mike Barry, his son-in-law’s dad, and secondary coach Jimmy Lake.

Defensive line coach Joe Cullen’s contract was not renewed and offensive coordinator Jim Colletto was demoted to offensive line coach.

The Lions now will search for their sixth coach since 2000. They have received permission to interview Washington Redskins secondary coach Jerry Gray, who was a teammate of Mayhew’s in 1993 with the Buccaneers.

Other possible candidates might include Brian Billick, who helped the Baltimore Ravens win a Super Bowl, and New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

The Lions completed their winless season with a loss to Green Bay on Sunday, pushing aside Tampa Bay’s 1976 season of 0-14 as the league’s worst. Marinelli, though, said the team was not the worst ever in his opinion because the players didn’t quit, pout or point fingers.

He won only one of his last 24 games and 10 of 48 in three years after Millen gave the former Bucs assistant his first head coaching job.

Marinelli was the third coach Millen hired ” following Steve Mariucci and Marty Mornhinweg ” in what has been the NFL’s worst eight-season stretch (31-97) for a team since World War II. Millen inherited Gary Moeller in 2001, fired him, and had Dick Jauron as an interim coach after firing Mariucci.

Millen was fired as team president three months ago, but the players he left behind, coupled with the former Tampa Bay players Marinelli wanted, created the perfect storm for a historic season of futility.

Marinelli acknowledged he misjudged what some of those former Bucs had left in their playing careers. He also, in a rare second-guessing moment, wondered if he raised the bar too quickly after Detroit started 6-2 last season.

“I’ve wrestled with that one a lot and I go back to that following week,” he said. “We talked about the playoffs. I don’t want to believe that was it, but once I started down that road and I have not done that before … we lost something.”

The Lions dropped seven of their final eight games last year, foreshadowing the miserable season that just mercifully ended.

Marinelli waited for three decades to be a head coach. He finally got his chance with a franchise in the middle of one of the worst eras of futility in NFL history.

“I can’t say he’s a bad coach,” Orlovsky said. “I just think he was put in a really difficult situation.”