Rod Marinelli might not recognize the guys on the other side when the Chicago Bears host the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
The group he sees will have a different look. It also has something else _ a win.
Now the Bears' defensive line coach, Marinelli insisted one thing that will look familiar is his approach, that this week's game against the team he led to a winless record a year ago is no different than any other for him.
He has no regrets about taking that job after the Lions became the first NFL team to go 0-16. He said they gave him an "unbelievable opportunity that I failed" during a three-year tenure that saw Detroit go 10-38.
As for getting emotional, forget it.
"I'm just not built that way," he said.
But if he was, his players could understand.
"He's the same guy, but let's be real," defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said. "I know this is a game that's going to be a little closer to his heart. He's not showing his cards, but we're not dumb."
Marinelli has "great respect" for his former players, but he won't see too many when he looks across the field Sunday. The team has 31 new ones after a massive overhaul.
Historically mediocre, Detroit hit new lows during an eight-year stretch that ranked as the NFL's worst since World War II under former president Matt Millen. The Lions were 31-84 before firing him three games into last season. By then, they were on the way to that dubious slide that cost Marinelli his job and finally ended at 19 games against Washington last week.
Marinelli's reputation, however, did not take a big hit.
He still was regarded as one of the league's top defensive line coaches thanks to a decade-long run with Tampa Bay in which that group racked up a league-leading 328 1/2 sacks, and when the Bears shook up their staff in the offseason, it was no surprise they turned to Marinelli.
He and coach Lovie Smith worked together on Tony Dungy's staff and were even roommates for a time. General manager Jerry Angelo also knew Marinelli from his time in Tampa Bay and tried to hire him as Chicago's defensive coordinator in 2004, only to have the Buccaneers block the move.
The Bears saw Marinelli as a key component for a defense trying to recapture the dominant form that propelled the 2006 team to the Super Bowl before back-to-back playoff misses. There were no blockbuster trades or signings to strengthen that group. The big moves involved Smith taking over play-calling duties along with the hiring of defensive backs coach Jon Hoke and Marinelli.
So far, the results are promising.
The Bears' defense ranks ninth through three games despite a list of injuries that includes losing Brian Urlacher for the remainder of the season in the opener. With nine sacks, they're just one behind the league leaders.
Players rave about Marinelli's focus, his attention to detail.
"There's not one time when you go up to him and he's not talking about football or talking about a move or talking about a play he just saw," defensive tackle Anthony Adams said. "I mean, he breathes it."
Lions defensive end Dewayne White credited Marinelli for making a big impact on his life, saying, "He gave me a lot of wisdom going forward as a father. And you can't take that from him."
On Sunday, Detroit will try to put together a win streak for the first time since it took three in a row to go to 6-2 in 2007, beating Chicago along the way. What went wrong after that? Marinelli wasn't sure.
"I really don't know," he said. "They played well still, lost a couple close games at home. But we just didn't get it done. Bottom line."
What happened from there certainly challenged his beliefs yet Marinelli insisted it made him a better coach, a better man.
"You become more creative, you become more determined and you embrace that," he said. "You embrace that. Adversity is something special. It really is, if you embrace it. If you run from it, it'll wear you out. But if you embrace it, try to find a way to get better _ that's what I tried to do."