Dallas Cowboys

Marinelli faces Lions as Browns close to joining his winless ’08 team

The Lions fired Rod Marinelli as head coach after three seasons, the final being the NFL’s only 0-16 team.
The Lions fired Rod Marinelli as head coach after three seasons, the final being the NFL’s only 0-16 team. AP

Wednesday marks the eighth anniversary of the Lions’ 0-16 season, the only team in league history with that stigma. Head coach Rod Marinelli was fired the next day, saying at the time that if someone recognized him for that he would “accept it and move on; I wouldn’t give an excuse, and I wouldn’t give an explanation.”

Ironically, with the Browns two games from joining Detroit with a 0-16 record, Marinelli’s Cowboys play the Lions on Monday night.

The Cowboys’ defensive coordinator remains steadfast that the winless season doesn’t bother him.

“What would it bother me?” Marinelli said Friday. “If I let it bother me…. My whole goal was bounce back, and I did it immediately. Went to Chicago [as an assistant coach] within five days or whatever it was, back coaching football and just absolutely loved it.”

Marinelli joined the Cowboys as defensive line coach in 2013 and took over as defensive coordinator from good friend, Monte Kiffin, the next season. The Cowboys, despite no Pro Bowlers, rank 13th in total offense, including first against the run.

Marinelli, a Vietnam vet, never wavered in his approach during his final season of his three seasons as a head coach.

“I think you have to be able to send a message that it’s bigger than me,” Marinelli said. “It’s about the game of football. Everybody may be looking at you, maybe looking at those teams, your players, that you set a standard of how you present yourself for the game of football and go forward. You just keep going forward with great belief. That’s just me. That’s why I took it.”

The Browns, if they lose to San Diego and Pittsburgh, will join the Lions as the only teams to go winless since the league went to a 16-game schedule in 1978. Cleveland lost to the Cowboys 35-10 on Nov. 6.

Marinelli feels for what Browns coach Hue Jackson is going through.

“What happens is all the things you believe in aren’t working and what I was able to do internally for myself is I took that as a positive, that it showed my strength and belief in what I do when it isn’t working,” Marinelli said. “That’s how high you bounce after you hit the bottom. Boom. Now you got to go back up. It’s nothing easy, but it’s the NFL and you grind through it.”