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Lions Fire Moeller and Hire 49er Assistant Mornhinweg

From Staff and Wire Reports

The Detroit Lions hired San Francisco 49er offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg on Wednesday to replace Gary Moeller as their head coach.

Mornhinweg, rumored to be headed to the Cleveland Browns for months, reached an agreement for a reported five-year, $5-million deal following a final interview Tuesday, Lion President Matt Millen confirmed.

Moeller, who took over in midseason for Bobby Ross when the Lions were 5-4, was fired to make way for Mornhinweg after the team finished 9-7 and didn’t make the playoffs. Moeller had been given a 2 1/2-year contract when he took over for Ross, but his status became shaky when Millen--a former All-Pro linebacker with the 49ers--was hired by owner William Clay Ford to take control of all football operations.

Mornhinweg, 38, is the latest Mike Holmgren protege to get a head coaching job. San Francisco’s Steve Mariucci, Oakland’s Jon Gruden, Philadelphia’s Andy Reid and Mornhinweg were offensive assistant coaches under Holmgren when he was coaching in Green Bay.

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Mornhinweg spent the last four seasons as the 49er offensive coordinator after two seasons as an offensive assistant and quarterback coach for the Green Bay Packers. He has never been a head coach at any level.

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New York Jet Coach Herman Edwards compared the hiring of new coordinators Paul Hackett for the offense and Ted Cottrell for the defense with winning a recruiting war for talent.

“They have a lot of energy and knowledge, a passion for football and they’re detail-oriented, guys who have been around football their whole lives,” said Edwards, hired last week to replace Al Groh after serving as Tampa Bay Buccaneer defensive backs coach the past five seasons. “Getting these guys to come is like winning a high school recruiting battle.”

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Hackett, fired Nov. 28 after three seasons as USC coach, has been an assistant with four other NFL teams and is a proponent of the West Coast offense developed by former 49er coach Bill Walsh. Vinny Testaverde is the probable starting quarterback for the Jets despite a subpar season, with Ray Lucas and Chad Pennington--a first-round draft pick in 2000--pushing him for the job.

“When quarterbacks get to that offense, they really enjoy it,” Edwards said. “As a defensive guy in the past, I know the headaches it causes.”

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The Browns are considering six candidates to replace fired coach Chris Palmer, including New York Giant defensive coordinator John Fox and Baltimore Raven defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis. The other candidates are Cleveland defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, New Orleans Saint offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy, Minnesota Viking offensive line coach Mike Tice and Tennessee Titan defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The Buffalo Bills are also talking to Williams about their head coaching position. Wade Phillips was fired Jan. 15. . . . Bob Bratkowski, the wide receiver coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers the last two seasons, was named offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals. . . . Joe Pendry, the Bills’ offensive coordinator the past three seasons, was hired by the Washington Redskins to coach the offensive line.

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Dennis Miller and Dan Fouts will be back as Al Michaels’ partners on ABC’s “Monday Night Football,” producer Don Ohlmeyer told Daily Variety at the NATPE convention in Las Vegas. Ohlmeyer also said he isn’t sure whether he will be back. Ohlmeyer, who said he hates the weekly travel, plans to make a decision within two weeks. . . . Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair will not play in the Feb. 4 Pro Bowl because of pain in his throwing shoulder. McNair was invited to the Pro Bowl as the AFC’s alternate after Denver’s Brian Griese withdrew because of shoulder surgery. Kansas City’s Elvis Grbac will replace McNair. . . . Denver offensive tackle Tony Jones, who said last summer the 2000 season would probably be his last, says he wants to return next season. Jones negotiated a seven-year contract extension last year that paid him a $6.5-million bonus. He is to earn $2 million in base salary in 2001, in addition to a $500,000 roster bonus Feb. 15.


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