Matt Millen Would Have Done More For Detroit Had He Worked On The Ford Assembly Line
Matt Millen grew up in Whitehall, Pennslyvania and played high school football at Whitehall High School. He played college football at Penn State where he was an All American defensive tackle. In 1978 he played in the National Championship game for Penn State against Alabama. In 1980 he was drafted in the second round by the Oakland Raiders where he played 9 of his 12 years. His remaining 3 years were spent with the San Francisco 49ers and the Washington Redskins. He actually won Super Bowl's with all 3 teams. From 1992-2000 Millen was a NFL television and radio broadcaster for CBS and later a NFL television broadcaster for Fox. Notice not anywhere in this bio have I mentioned ANYTHING about the state of Michigan nor ANYTHING about coaching. So in 2001 when Matt Millen was hired by the Detroit Lions as Chief Executive Officer I couldn't have been the only one scratching my head. I mean don't all general managers have ties to the team they work for or at least were coaches at some point.
After seeing a 7 year tenure at that position that resulted in the worst 7 year record in the history of the modern NFL i initially hypothesized that Millen must have had a personal vendetta against the state of Michigan. Let's think about that for just a minute. Even the lowly New Orleans Saints from 1979-1985 won 37 games during those 7 years compared to the 31 won by the Lions under Millen. His vendetta could not have stemmed from his college days because Penn State never played Michigan or Michigan State. Nor could his pro days have produced any animosity because let's face it the Detroit Lions were never a rival to ANYBODY. But before I get too heavy with my criticism of Matt Millen maybe we should step back for a second and look at why he was even hired in the first place. In 2000 the Lions were actually not that bad. They finished with a record of 9-7 with Chuck Schmidt in the role of Executive Vice President and COO. On the last play of the last game of the season Chicago's kicker Paul Edinger made a 54 yard field goal to beat the Lions and prevent the game from going into overtime. Had Edinger missed and the Lions won that game Detroit would have made the playoffs and Schmidt would not have been relieved from his position. The 9-7 mark was an improvement over the 8-8 finish from 1999. 1998 was Barry Sanders' last year and the Lions had a terrible season which leads one to believe that the Lions were successfully rebuilding their franchise in '99 and '00.
However that was not the feeling of William Clay Ford Sr. He decided that Matt Millen should be the new man in charge off the field and Millen in turn decided Marty Mornhinweg should be the new man in charge on the field. How ironic was it then when in 2002 the Lions were playing the Bears once again and this time the game DID go into overtime. The Lions won the toss and Mornhinweg ELECTED TO KICK. His reason was THE WIND AT HIS BACK. Apparently no one explained to Marty that scoring a touchdown IS an option in overtime and it IS possible to win the game without your kicker kicking against the wind. Yes the Lions never got their hands on the ball again and went down in defeat. Besides his choice of coaches he has also taken heat for drafting 4 wide receivers(yes i said 4) with his #1 pick in 5 years. The irony there is the only one of those 4 to work out(Calvin Johnson) is doing so as we speak 4 years after Millen was fired. Charles Rogers broke his collarbone each of his first 2 years and retired; Mike Williams caught 37 balls for the Lions and was dumped; and in between those two guys Roy Williams was also dumped despite being the most productive of the three catching 146 balls in 2006 and 2007. In 2006 he took a linebacker Ernie Sims probably for no other reason than to get people off his back. But then after going back to a wide receiver(Johnson) in 2007 the Lions decided having 45 of their 52 man roster at wide receiver was probably not a good idea and fired him in 2008. Now that pick is regarded as the best player on a pretty darn good 2012 Lions team. Oh the irony. I think we all know at this point who is to blame for the Matt Millen fiasco. DAMN THAT PAUL EDINGER!