Wayne Fontes Wins Lions Coaching Post

Associated Press

Wayne Fontes, the Detroit Lions’ interim coach for the final five games of the 1988 NFL season, was given a three-year contract today as head coach, owner William Clay Ford announced.

Ford announced the hiring at a press conference.

Speculation swirled around several people, including Michigan State coach George Perles, but Lions officials denied rumors that Perles had been interviewed Wednesday.

Fontes, who took over after coach Darryl Rogers and offensive coordinator Bob Baker were fired, guided the Lions to a 2-3 record--both wins against the Green Bay Packers.


For the season, the Lions were 4-12 and out of the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. Rogers, who took over when Monte Clark was fired after the 1984 season, left with an 18-40 record.

Fontes, 48, was in his fourth season as the Lions defensive coordinator when he was given the interim post. He was an immediate hit with the players, who warmed to his enthusiastic style.

He attempted to open up the Lions conservative offense by hiring aggressive Mouse Davis. Fontes also hired former Green Bay quarterback Lynn Dickey as quarterback coach, a position that was unfilled under Rogers.

Fontes campaigned hard for the job, saying he felt qualified to be a head coach after 13 years as an assistant, first with Tampa Bay and then with Detroit.


Fontes will face an uphill battle rebuilding the talent-thin Lions, who need help at almost every skill position on offense and defense.

A former AFL defensive back with the New York Jets, Fontes began his coaching career with the Michigan State freshman team in 1965. He later took assistant college coaching jobs at Dayton, Iowa and USC.

Fontes went with John McKay to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976 and advanced from secondary coach to defensive coordinator to assistant coach during his nine years with the Bucs.

In 1987, Fontes was arrested and charged with cocaine possession and drunk driving. The cocaine charges were later dropped, and Fontes pleaded guilty to drunk driving and received a $500 fine.


Lions general manager Russ Thomas said those problems had no bearing on the decision to name Fontes interim coach.