Last week I did a preview on Rob Chudzinski, current offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers, as a prospect for Miami's Head Coach vacancy in 2012. This week I will take a look at another coordinator, this time Marty Mornhinweg of the Philadelphia Eagles.
What would you think of Marty Mornhinweg if I told you that in 1987 he was the best QB in Denver before he blew out his knee? Would you believe me? No? Smart choice. He was a star QB in Denver in 1987, but that was in the Arena Football League with the Denver Dynamite where he went 3-4 for 30 yards and two sacks in 1987 before his knee blew out. Ok, maybe he's not John Elway, but there are similarities. Mornhinweg was the star QB of an up-and-coming AFL franchise and Elway was part owner of the Colorado Crush. That's close enough, right? Right?
As much limited success Mornhinweg had as a player, he has quite the extensive coaching background. He began his coaching career in 1985 as a WR coach for UM. Ok, so that is University of Montana and not the University of Miami or University of Michigan. Not a big drop off, is it? He then became a Graduate Assistant for University of Texas at El Paso in 1986 and 1987. Between 1988 and 1994, he bounced around Northern Arizona (RB Coach), SE Missouri State (Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach), University of Missouri (TE/OL Coach), and then back to Northern Arizona (Offensive Coordinator).
In 1995, Mornhinweg entered the NFL for the first time as an Offensive Assistant/Quality Control Coach. He served in that position for only a year before being promoted to QB Coach in 1996.
Mornhinweg started making a name for himself in 1997 when he was hired by the San Francisco 49ers as Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach under Steve Mariucci. In 1998, the 49ers became the first team since the 1941 Chicago bears to lead the NFL in gross passing and rushing, setting a franchise record 6,800 yards. That number is not all that far from Miami's productivity from 2007-2009.
In 2001, Mornhinweg was offered his first Head Coach position for the Detroit Lions. He served two unspectacular years, under the misdirection of Matt Millen. Mornhinweg was left in an unspectacular position as he was running a team that Millen was tasked to assemble, though Millen came to Detroit with as much player development and front office experience as any member of the Phinsider. If anyone is wondering how many years that equates to, the answer is 0. The Lions finished 5-27 in Mornhinweg's two years as Head Coach. During that time, he was most remembered for a coin toss in overtime against the Chicago Bears on November 25, 2002. When the Lions won the coin toss, Mornhinweg wanted the wind on his side and chose to kickoff to Chicago, thinking Detroit would get the ball off and would have the advantage. The Bears foiled the plan by scoring a FG on the opening drive. Rumor has it Tony Sparano fist pumped on that FG and Dave Wannstedt later said he would've punted if he was Chicago's Head Coach to back the Lions up in their own territory. The slip up earned Mornhinweg the nickname "Marty Moron-weg" in Detroit. That was not Mornhinweg's first decision to earn him a stiff backlash in the media. In his first training camp as Head Coach, he was so fed up with his team "loafing" that he drove away on his motorcycle halfway through practice, leaving his team stunned.
After he was fired from Detroit, Mornhinweg landed himself back with his old co-worker Andy Reid and joined the Eagles staff in 2003. Mornhinweg held the position of Senior Assistant in 2003 before being promoted to Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator in 2004. Though he was the Offensive Coordinator, Mornhinweg did not call the plays for the Eagles. Andy Reid maintained play-calling duties until 2006, when the responsibility was finally given to Mornhinweg after the Eagles suffered a terrible loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Since that time, the Eagles lead the NFL in plays of over 25 yards (184) and yards per touch (8.1) while running a more balanced offense. Additionally, the Eagles ranked third in total net yards (29,396) and fifth in points per game (25.2).
In 2007, Brian Westbrook set franchise records in scrimmage yards with 2,104 yards. The Eagles offense finished sixth in the NFL with 358.1 yards per game. In 2008, Donovan McNabb set franchise records in yards (3,916) and completions (345), surpassing numbers set by all other mediocre QBs in Philadelphia in their unspectacular history.
For all his flaws as a Head Coach in Detroit, Mornhinweg is widely considered an offensive mastermind and is well respected in NFL circles. There have been other coaches, such as Bill Belichick, who failed in their first Head Coaching position to have performed much better in their second tour as Head Coach. Perhaps Mornhinweg could follow suit if given another opportunity.