Want to find out if Marty Mornhinweg wants another head coaching job in the NFL? Just ask him. “I’ll be a head coach again,” Mornhinweg, the Eagles offensive coordinator, said Thursday during an interview with The Daily Journal at the NovaCare Complex. “I might go coach a youth football program just to get some wins.” His smile widens — but only for a second or two. A little humor, then on to the next subject. Such as how much his family loves Philadelphia, how he can walk from his townhouse to the practice facility, or finding the perfect run-pass ratio to balance the Eagles offense. Those are the things that Mornhinweg, entering his fourth season with the Eagles and second in charge of their offense, is immersed in 24-7, 365 days a year.
But seriously, don’t kid yourself. Beneath the humor, there’s a serious tone about his next coaching venture. “Quite possibly, one of these days, I’ll get an opportunity,” he said. “Things might be a little better.” He won’t call it a bitter taste, but Mornhinweg still has some unfinished business from those two abysmal seasons he coached the Bad News Bears of the NFL, the perennially awful Detroit Lions. It’s not even the head coaching legacy he’d like to leave behind, but if there’s one good thing that he took from Detroit and after five seasons as an assistant in Green Bay and San Francisco, it’s that the next place can’t be just any place. The next place has to be the right place, the right organization, with the right kind of people in charge.
This offseason, five coaching vacancies were filled – Miami, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Dallas and Arizona – none of them mentioning Mornhinweg’s name. Former Houston Texans general manager Charlie Casserly, who is an NFL analyst for CBS Sportsline.com, did extensive work tracking head coaching changes during the offseason. Was there any buzz for Mornhinweg this offseason? “I did not hear his name at all, anywhere,” Casserly said. His next move isn’t necessarily to get a head coaching job; it’s trying to figure out how the Eagles offense can function most efficiently or which training camp battles must be resolved. He hasn’t placed a timetable on his second chance, but he’d like to find that right opportunity within the next few years. “But it still comes down to perhaps somebody having a relationship with him and the Eagles having continued success,” Casserly said. “It’s a combination of both things.”
While the Lions still seek a franchise savior, Mornhinweg quietly has repaired his image in Philadelphia. In two full seasons with Detroit, 2001 and 2002, he watched five first-round picks be scraped off the roster for various reasons. Three other Lions, including linebacker Stephen Boyd, suffered career-ending injuries. In addition, he went through three quarterbacks his first season, the last being Mike McMahon, and lost his first 11 games. The following year, he won just three games. And not once did the Lions win a road game in those two years. On the flip side, 17 of those losses were by fewer than 10 points, a statistic Mornhinweg said rarely gets mentioned.
The downfall of Mornhinweg’s career in Detroit came Nov. 25, 2002, on a breezy day at Champaign, Ill. (temporary home of the Chicago Bears). Headed into sudden-death overtime of a 17-17 game, Mornhinweg curiously elected to kick instead of receive after the Lions won the coin flip. Chicago marched downfield and won the game on Paul Edinger’s 40-yard field goal. Criticism of Mornhinweg came from every corner imaginable. Even four months after the fact, an ESPN.com Page 2 ranking of the 10 worst coaching decisions in sports placed Mornhinweg’s call third. Has “the call” — and the subsequent fallout — tarnished his image? “I can’t imagine anybody would even think about it,” Casserly said. “I’ve forgotten about it, totally. Every coach is going to have a situation where he makes a call that’s second-guessed or doesn’t come out right.”
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