Tampa Bay assistant head coach/defensive line coach Rod Marinelli was introduced as the Detroit Lions’ new head coach on Thursday.
Marinelli, 56, worked as Tampa Bay’s defensive line coach for 10 years. Although Monte Kiffin is considered the architect of Tampa Bay’s defense, which has ranked in the top 10 for nine straight seasons, Marinelli was and still is regarded as one of the most brilliant teachers and defensive minds in the NFL.
“I’ve been with Rod Marinelli since 1996 and I think this is a great choice by [Lions general manager] Matt Millen,” Kiffin said. “You don’t have to be a defensive coordinator to be a good head coach. [Kansas City head coach] Herm Edwards was in the same situation here when he went to the New York Jets and you can see where he has had an extremely successful career as a head coach.
“There is no doubt Rod will do an awesome job. He is a motivator and the players will play hard for him. He is a disciplinarian in the right way. When the players walk off the field, they will be better football players and he will help extend their careers. In the same sense, they will gravitate towards Rod because of the way he interacts with his players.”
Marinelli is the second assistant coach the Bucs have lost to another team this offseason. Last week, former Bucs defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin was named the Minnesota Vikings’ new defensive coordinator. Last month, Tampa Bay lost assistant defensive backs coach Raheem Morris to the Kansas State Wildcasts, who hired him as their new defensive coordinator.
Not only will Tampa Bay’s coaching staff miss Marinelli, the Bucs defensive players, particularly the defensive linemen, have a deep respect for their former defensive line coach, whom they give a tremendous amount of credit to for helping them thrive in Tampa Bay’s proven defensive scheme.
“One of the hardest tasks in the game of football is leading men,” said Bucs three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Simeon Rice, who notched 67.5 sacks in five seasons with the Bucs. “When you are talking about a coach like Rod Marinelli, who not only knows how to lead men, but he is a great example of how to live your life. He knows how to look at life through perspective and to live life with great focus. It shows you a little bit about one of the true great minds of our time.
“What he has done for me and my life, what he has brought to me and my life, words can’t describe it. I’m extremely happy for him, but I’m extremely sad for me. He’ll do great at what he does, because what he does is mold men into becoming whatever they seek to become in their careers. And what he has done for me, in terms of enlightenment and just philosophies, are the things that I eat, drink and sleep by. By me meeting this man, and him being a part of my life for the short time he was, he’s been able to change my perspectives and my ideas about life. The Lions are getting much more than a coach; they are getting much more than a man. They say legends aren’t born everyday, but the Detroit Lions are getting one, and I salute them.”
Marinelli is considered an exceptional motivator. He coined the phrase, “Pound The Rock,” which was something that was reiterated throughout Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl championship season in 2002.
In 2005, Marinelli helped Tampa Bay’s defense return to its dominant form. In fact, the Bucs defense finished the season ranked No. 1 overall. One of the reasons why the Bucs defense played much better in ’05, particularly against the run, was because of the players’ willingness to buy into Marinelli’s philosophy of sporting pads throughout each week of practice.
“I think he used the terms that he’d rather have you low and tired than high and fresh, because low and tired is going to win you that game in the fourth quarter,” Bucs Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks said of Marinelli. “It’s going to give you that advantage. I think from a mental standpoint of guys who understand, and us particularly understanding that was just part of who we were. We weren’t trying to be anything else or trying to be cute about it. This is what we were. We were blue collared workers who put on our pads and went to work. I think what we understood was that’s who we were. We actually enjoyed getting to each other a little bit.”
Tampa Bay’s defense has arguably been on of the league’s best since 1997. The Bucs have ranked in the top 5 in total defense in seven of the past nine seasons.
But Tampa Bay has paid a price for that success. The Bucs’ defensive coaching tree has worked its way through the NFL. Marinelli (Detroit), Tony Dungy (Indianapolis), Herm Edwards (Kansas City) and Lovie Smith (Chicago) are currently head coaches. That’s quite a feat for coaches that helped turn one of the worst teams in sports history into a championship-caliber team.
“It’s kind of funny. In 1996, no one thought the Bucs had anything in this building or a chance to be successful,” Brooks said. “Again, that’s one of the advantages that Rod had that he came to a franchise that at that time was the laughing stock of the league. He saw how we built, and how we kept doing the same things over and over. We became what we repeatedly did. Now we’re one of the more talked about and more successful franchises these past two years. Again, not everybody can say that because everybody wasn’t here in 1996 and saw how we went through this process. I think that’s one of the advantages that he has on his resume that he’s bringing to Detroit.”
The Bucs are in the process of conducting interviews in search of replacements for Marinelli and Tomlin. There is no word yet on possible candidates to fill those positions.
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