Players learned from Marinelli, bad season

IRVING, Texas – Calvin Johnson is one of only three Detroit Lions around from the 0-16 season from 2008. On Sunday Johnson will get the chance to say hello to that team’s coach, Rod Marinelli, who heads up the Dallas Cowboys defensive line.

“He made a lasting impression,” Johnson said.

Marinelli was Detroit’s head coach from 2006 to 2008, posting a 10-38 record. Although he might not be remembered fondly in Detroit, Marinelli has nothing but fans in the Cowboys’ organization. From 2009 to 2012, he headed up the Chicago Bears defense and repaired his reputation. With the Cowboys he has turned a number of castoffs into solid role players for the Cowboys.

Ernie Sims was a linebacker for the Lions under Marinelli in that winless year.

As historically bad as that season was for the Lions and for Marinelli, Sims saw the coach never give in.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Coach Marinelli,” Sims said. “He had people calling him everything under the sun but he still came to work every day, motivated all of us, coached us and told us to keep our head down and keep fighting. For me, it helped me grow up as a young man and helped me in life. That’s how life is sometimes. You’ve got to fight through it and don’t look down the road. Just look at now. Keep everything right there, that’s what I say. I’ve got a lot of respect for Coach Marinelli.”

Marinelli has declined to speak to reporters during the week, but his players have spoken for him.

“He’s straightforward,” Sims said. “A lot of coaches are not like that. That’s the thing you can respect. If you’re doing good, he’ll tell you you’re doing good. If you’re not so good, he’ll tell you it’s not so good.”