Lions coach Matt Patricia talks about the need for his team to improve its fundamentals. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
Allen Park — The Detroit Lions have fired special teams coordinator Joe Marciano, announcing the move in a press release Monday evening.
“Tonight I spoke to Joe and informed him of my decision to relieve him of his responsibilities with our team," Lions coach Matt Patricia said via the statement. "I appreciate Joe’s leadership of our special teams units over the last three and a half seasons and have great respect for his many years of service as a coach in the National Football League.
"On behalf of our team and the entire coaching staff, I want to personally thank Joe for his commitment to the Detroit Lions and wish him and his family the best moving forward."
Former Lions coach Jim Caldwell hired Marciano in 2015 and the special teams thrived for the first three seasons under his stewardship.
The past two years, Detroit's special teams ranked sixth and fifth, respectively, according to Football Outsiders. The publication's formula measures a team's coverage units, punting, kicking and return men against the league average.
But this year, the Lions have struggled with a revolving door of issues. Early in the season, the team was slow to to adjust to the league's new kickoff return rules, surrendering multiple long returns. Through nine weeks, the Lions rank 24th, allowing 25.1 yards per attempt.
They've been even worse covering punts. Opponents to averaging a league-best 20.6 yards per attempt against the Lions, including a 78-yard touchdown in the season opener.
That's played a big role in Lions' net punting average, which at 38.3 yards is better than only the Falcons and the Chargers.
Detroit's return game has been equally unimpressive. The team lost All-Pro punt returner Jamal Agnew to an ACL injury in Week 5, but he had been averaging just 5.6 yards before getting hurt.
Penalties have also been a huge problem. The team has been flagged 14 times for 132 yards on special teams, mostly during returns. They were flagged 19 all of last season.
Combined, the Lions have plummeted to 29th in Football Outsiders special teams ranking.
The Lions did not immediately name a replacement for Marciano. Devin Fitzsimmons, who has been serving as the team's assistant special teams coach since 2014, remains on staff.