Mariucci looking to instill confidence

Updated: June 20, 2003, 11:22 AM ET
By By Ryan Early
When Lions general manager Matt Millen took the job two years ago, his ideal choice as the new head coach was then-49ers top man Steve Mariucci to come in and install the prolific West Coast offense. Mariucci wasn't available then, so Millen settled for Mariucci's offensive coordinator, Marty Mornhinweg. Two years later, Mariucci left San Francisco and Mornhinweg had gone 5-27 without winning a single road game. Exit Morhninweg, enter Mariucci.

The move to Detroit is a homecoming for Mariucci, who grew up in Michigan and played quarterback for Northern Michigan University. Throughout his coaching travels, he has retained links to the area, mostly through his high school classmate and college roommate, Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo. The connection to Michigan is deep for several assistant coaches as well. Receivers coach Bobby Williams was the head football coach at Michigan State where he coached top draft pick wide receiver Charles Rogers. Offensive coordinator Sherm Lewis played for the Spartans and spent fourteen years there at the start of his coaching career.

As a head coach, Steve Mariucci has made a name for himself as one of the best in the business after having success with the 49ers, going through a salary cap caused roster purge and rebuilding project, and emerging on the other end with another playoff team. In six years with the 49ers, Mariucci went 57-39 with four postseason appearances. He inherits a Lions team that was stripped bare by Millen in 2000 and is slowly putting the building blocks of a contender back together. After two horrific seasons, just giving the players a sense of confidence that they can be competitive will be a good achievement.