Matt Millen's latest choice for head coach of the Lions looks like it came from the same plan as his first.
Millen, president of the Lions since 2001, has to hope he has more success with Rod Marinelli than he had with Marty Mornhinweg five years ago.
Millen mined the NFL's ranks of assistant head coaches and selected a man without a high public profile in hiring Marinelli on Wednesday. Contract terms were not immediately available.
The Lions scheduled a news conference for this morning to introduce Marinelli at their Allen Park headquarters.
Marinelli, who coached the defensive line for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the last 10 years, was one of three finalists in an interview process that began Jan. 2, the day after the regular season ended. Former Saints coach Jim Haslett and Steelers assistant head coach Russ Grimm also were under consideration.
Marinelli, 56, was known in Tampa as a tough, dedicated taskmaster whose defensive lines were known for rushing the passer.
Marinelli was a career college assistant when former Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy hired him in 1996. Previously, Marinelli was a defensive assistant at Utah State, California, Arizona State and Southern Cal.
He was highly regarded in Tampa and in recent years had the title of assistant head coach. Players such as Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice achieved double-digit sack seasons under Marinelli.
Until this year, the Buccaneers reportedly had refused to give other NFL teams permission to interview Marinelli for an assistant's job with more authority.
Marinelli's contract with Tampa Bay was up after the 2005 season, and it was generally understood he would not return to the Buccaneers. Marinelli interviewed for other jobs, including at Oakland.
Marinelli was part of the first wave of interviews in Detroit. He was the only candidate to have a second interview. Marinelli met Wednesday with Millen and owner William Clay Ford.
Haslett had expected to interview again today, but that was canceled when the Lions began contract discussions with Marinelli.
The timing of Marinelli's hiring is favorable for the Lions. On Monday, practices begin for the Senior Bowl All-Star game in Mobile, Ala. The top college seniors will run through drills under the watch of coaches, scouts and personnel directors.
The week of activities also represent a prime job fair for coaches looking for assistants and assistants seeking jobs. Ten teams have fired coaches this year, so there should be a number of assistants available.
Marinelli is expected to have a free hand in forming his own staff, although Millen might recommend he keep some assistants.
It also is understood that Marinelli will have the say-so on player personnel, including the status of quarterback Joey Harrington. Millen is a Harrington supporter but has said he isn't hiring a coach for one player. If Marinelli decides the Lions need to go in another direction, Millen will support it.
Harrington has two years left on his contract. A bonus payment of $4 million is due June 15. By then, the Lions will have looked at free agents and gone through the draft in April.
Millen's first head-coaching hire as president of the Lions was Mornhinweg in 2001. He had spent four seasons in San Francisco under head coach Steve Mariucci as an assistant and offensive coordinator. The Lions lost their first 12 games under Mornhinweg and went on to records of 2-14 and 3-13 for a cumulative record of 5-27.
Mornhinweg was fired in January 2003, two weeks after the 49ers had fired Mariucci. Millen began to court Mariucci immediately.
Mariucci was hired with a five-year, $25 million contract that made him one of the NFL's highest-paid coaches. It looked like a dream choice for the Lions, with Mariucci's Upper Peninsula roots, media savvy and a winning background in San Francisco. The 49ers made the playoffs four times in six years under Mariucci.
But the dream marriage between Mariucci and the Lions became a nightmare. The Lions went 5-11 and 6-10 under Mariucci, and the offense, which was supposed to be Mariucci's area of expertise, was no better than it had been under Mornhinweg.
On Nov. 28, Millen fired Mariucci and promoted defensive coordinator Dick Jauron to the top job. The Lions were 4-7 in Mariucci's last season and went 1-4 under Jauron to finish 5-11.