A FEW WISE WORDS FOR THE NEW GUY

Good Morning, Mr. Marinelli:

If you are who we say you are – namely, the Lions’ new head coach – then welcome to Detroit. To be honest, most of us never heard of you. But we already know a lot about you.

For example, we know you are taking this job, which makes you A) an optimist, B) desperate, C) the wrong man for the position or D) the exception to the rule.

Let’s hope it’s D.

We know you’re 56 years old, which will be used against you (“If he’s so good, how come nobody hired him before?”) unless you win.

We know you’ve never been a head coach, which will be used against you (“Why didn’t they go for experience?”) unless you win.

We know you’re a defensive specialist, which will be used against you (“Matt Millen only hired him because Millen played defense”) unless you win.

We know your last name begins with M, which will be used against you (“Mornhinweg! Mariucci! Marinelli!”) unless you win.

If you’re sensing that the deck is stacked, that’s because it is.

Unless you win.

Remember Super Bowl XXXVII

You see, Rod – may I call you Rod? – this is not a football town that is used to winning and losing. It is only used to losing. It is used to ineptitude, foolery, incompetence and plain old bad luck. It expects out of its football team what farmers expect out of an old mule: not much.

But that doesn’t keep the farmer from kicking it.

The truth is, Roddy – may I call you Roddy? – there is so much negativity toward the Lions, it turns great players mediocre and mediocre players lousy. It squashes quarterbacks. And it buries coaching careers the way Tony Soprano buries double-crossers.

So with that in mind, let’s get dressed and go the news conference, shall we?

Now, as we walk, Rodmeister – may I call you Rodmeister? – let’s go over a few points. First of all, you may be green, but you’re not without credits. Many football experts consider you the best defensive line guru in the business. Since the Lions, when it matters, get to the quarterback as often as Dennis Rodman gets to church, you should play this up. Tell the crowd, “We’re gonna sack everything in sight!” That’s a good start.

Secondly, while this is your first head coaching job, it’s not like teams haven’t wanted you. The Colts, Jets and Bears all came after you as defensive coordinator but were rebuffed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with whom you had a contract. Use that. Tell the folks, “I’m a man of my word. I honored my deal.” That’ll go over big.

(Uh, about Tampa Bay. Make sure you say that you were there when the Bucs were good, not when they stunk. Remind folks you were on the Super Bowl winner of 2003, and your Bucs had five sacks.)

In fact, say these words often: “Super Bowl. I’ve been there. Have you?”

That’ll shut us up.

Just say win, baby!

Now, Mr. M – may I call you Mr. M? – I’m gonna warn you: They’ll ask about the quarterback. A little advice? Say nothing. Say, “I’m gonna have a quarterback who’s tough, who can move and who can throw downfield.”

Don’t use names. Names only get you in trouble.

And when they ask about tradition, say, “We make our own tradition.” Don’t talk about five-year plans. Don’t credit previous coaches.

Start fresh. Act fresh. Tell us this is a new era, a new way of doing things, and use the word “win” as often as possible.

If that doesn’t work, tackle something.

OK. That’s it. Good luck out there, Rodorooter. If you are who we say you are – the Lions’ new coach – we look forward to seeing what you can do.

And if you’re not …

Return this column to the front desk.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).

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