Thursday, October 12, 2006

Lions' Bag Of M&M's Should Have Stopped With Moeller

I can never look at a bag of M&M's the same way again.

Matt Millen. Marty Mornhinweg. Steve Mariucci. Now, Rod Marinelli.

And, before that -- before even Millen -- Gary Moeller.

I don't know for sure, but it's likely the Lions have set some sort of a record by having four consecutive coaches all have their last names begin with the same letter.

And you know what? The earliest of those four might have been the best choice, after all.

When Moeller, the erstwhile U-M coach, took over for Bobby Ross about two-thirds through the 2000 season, nobody gave him much of a chance to stay beyond the year. And when the Lions lost on Christmas Eve to the Bears, knocking themselves out of the playoff picture, Moeller's chances took another blow. Then, when Millen was hired shortly thereafter, Moeller was toast. Everyone knew it, including Mo himself. Millen gave Moeller a cursory interview, but it was all a sham.

Mo: Never had a chance, and that's a shame

I wouldn't be complaining about Moeller's dismissal some six years later if the coach that Millen hired in early 2001 was someone experienced and respected as a head coach. But Millen hired Mornhinweg, an assistant, after one good interview and a late night film session. No joke. In fact, Millen tripped all over himself to hire Marty before he could get on a plane to interview with Cleveland the next day. Unbelievable.

It says here, as it's been said here many times before, that the Lions, and Millen, wouldn't be in this world of hurt today if they had made a different choice as coach in 2001. I could abide the Moeller cashiering if his replacement was someone who you'd hear and say, "OH...well of COURSE you hire him and dump Mo." But the Lions didn't get that by hiring Mornhinweg. That much was painfully proven in two horrible seasons and one notorious motorcycle ride-out.

I always felt like if the Lions were going to hire a newbie, then they should have just stayed with Moeller. He already knew the personnel, he had gotten the team to play for him in the short time he was there, and he seemed like he had the energy and enthusiasm needed. It would have been fun to see the Lions guided by an old college guy, and a Michigan one to boot.

It's impossible to say where the Lions would exactly have been with Gary Moeller as their coach in 2001 and beyond. But it's pretty safe to say they wouldn't be any worse off than they are now. The thought of this being worse is chilling, frankly.

Oh, Mo, the Lions hardly knew ye.

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