[size=13pt]New Lions, Vikings coaches keep reiterating their philosophies[/size]

Sunday, October 08, 2006

By Tom Kowalski

MINNEAPOLIS -- When a new head coach decides to radically change the schemes on both offense and defense, he needs to have a little bit of used-car salesman inside of him. After all, he's got to sell his product to a lot of skeptical customers.

That's the situation both Rod Marinelli of the Detroit Lions and Brad Childress of the Minnesota Vikings found themselves in during the off-season. Both first-time head coaches, Marinelli and Childress are continuing to sell their belief systems to the players.

"I think it's always the buy-in factor," Childress said of the toughest challenge facing a new head coach. "You want to have some success with it somewhere along the line -- I think that's probably the biggest thing. Most of the time change is uncomfortable, but that doesn't mean it doesn't need to be changed."

The Vikings had some success early this season, winning their first two games, but they've stumbled since with two losses. The Lions have yet to win a game in four tries, but in three of them they were in it until the final minutes.

"We're that close. That's what's keeping this team together and driving," Marinelli said. "They look at the tape and we see how close we are. Can we clean this up? Yeah. I sound like a broken record but when you're changing habits you have to be a broken record and just keep it going over and over again.

"So they can sit there and keep looking at it and say `If we keep doing this and doing it better.' Eliminate some of the mistakes and we have a chance of being a really good team -- this year."

The Lions players have already bought into the philosophy of offensive coordinator Mike Martz and they're seeing the results. Quarterback Jon Kitna is off to a solid start and playmakers like wide receiver Roy Williams and running back Kevin Jones are fulfilling their potential. Even though the Lions don't have any victories, it doesn't mean they don't have any confidence.

"I think that's what comes from strong leadership from above," Kitna said. "From coach Marinelli on down, it's very strong leadership and a belief in what they've done. The things that they've done have won Super Bowls, the things that have been done by a lot of us in this locker room haven't won Super Bowls. So we have to do what they're asking us to do and we'll win football games."

While Marinelli was hired to reverse the fortunes of a struggling franchise, Childress took over a team that was already solid on the field -- they had a 9-7 record last year -- but a mess off of it. The Vikings were a team in constant turmoil, from many scrapes with the law, including the infamous "Love Boat" incident last year, to former head coach Mike Tice's Super Bowl ticket scandal.

There was a malaise setting in on the team and the organization, which had already dumped talented but troubled receiver Randy Moss, hired Childress as their head coach and shipped disgruntled quarterback (Daunte Culpepper) to the Miami Dolphins.

That's not the only thing the Vikings and Lions have in common. Both are using new offensive schemes -- Childress is a West Coast coach -- and they're both installing versions of the Tampa Two defense. Minnesota defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin was a member of the Bucs' staff with Marinelli.

Both the Lions and Vikings are having some issues with their pass defense, but Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson has already seen a not-to-subtle change in the Lions' defensive attitude.

"I watched the last play of their game against Green Bay. The game was out of hand, Green Bay was running the clock out and the last play of the game Detroit caused a fumble," Johnson said. "Those guys were jumping up and down on the sidelines -- the players were up and down and that's what it takes to go to the next level."

"So you do see improvement and they've put a stamp on the offense. They've come together and racked up a lot of points last week. Detroit's defense has played some pretty good offenses the first few weeks, so I only see them getting better."