Curt Sylvester - "Coordinator's role is undefined"
NFL ROUNDUP: Coordinator's role is undefined
BY CURT SYLVESTER, FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
Ted Tollner is the Lions' new offensive coordinator, but a big question remains: What is he going to do?
Is he going to have a low profile -- as predecessor Sherm Lewis did -- working on game plans and organizational duties? Or is he going to call plays, as he did this season with the San Francisco 49ers?
Will he have a voice in making the adjustments coach Steve Mariucci discussed at the end of the season? Or did Mariucci bring him aboard because he believes in the same conservative style of West Coast offense Mariucci has taught through his eight seasons as an NFL head coach?
The Lions announced Tollner as their new coordinator Wednesday, and Mariucci is expected to talk about his decision today, possibly providing an indication as to the direction the Lions will take with their offense.
"I've known Ted for more than 20 years and consider him to be one of the best minds in football," Mariucci said in a statement released by the team Wednesday. "His pedigree is comparable, having learned from Don Coryell, who most regard as one of the most innovative offensive coaches in the history of our game.
"Ted's been involved with the most successful and progressive offensive philosophies in football -- from Don Coryell to LaVell Edwards to John Robinson to Marv Levy to Chuck Knox. He will be a tremendous asset to our young offensive players. This is an exceptional addition to our staff."
Mariucci eventually gave up play-calling duties during his six years as the 49ers' coach and he said he would delegate them with the Lions as well, under the right circumstances.
Until the final three games of this season, however, Mariucci had called virtually all of the plays for his two years as coach of the Lions.
In those three games, he had quarterbacks coach Greg Olson call plays and expressed satisfaction with Olson's performance. He even interviewed Olson for the coordinator job after Lewis announced his retirement, but Mariucci clearly wanted to go outside his staff to fill the position.
He interviewed at least three outside candidates -- Tollner, Mike McCarthy of New Orleans and Marc Trestman of Miami -- before settling on Tollner.
Mariucci was a receivers and special teams assistant at the University of Southern California under Tollner in 1986, and he hired Tollner as his quarterbacks coach with the 49ers in 2002, his final season at San Francisco.
Tollner, 64, remained on the 49ers staff under Dennis Erickson and was promoted to offensive coordinator for the team's 2-14 season. The 49ers dropped from fifth in the NFL to 26th in total offense, but most observers didn't hold Tollner responsible. He wasn't considered an aggressive play-caller, but since the 49ers were short on offensive talent, Tollner drew little criticism.
After losing quarterback Jeff Garcia and wide receiver Terrell Owens in off-season deals, Tollner worked with minimal talent that included a subpar line, quarterbacks (Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey and rookie Cody Pickett) with a combined 69.9 passer rating and a lackluster set of receivers.
Tollner will have more talent to work with in Detroit, regardless of what Mariucci has him doing as the offensive coordinator.
NOTEBOOK: Richard Smith, the Lions' assistant head coach/linebackers coach for the past two years, has been interviewed twice for the defensive coordinator job of the Dolphins.