Heard outside Detroit: Millen to be fired (maybe)

By Os Davis  |   Sunday, December 03, 2006  |  Comments( 4 )

Detroit Lions
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What has been a mighty roar for some time in Detroit Lions land is a whisper in the winds everywhere: "Fire Millen," it implores, "please, for the love of God, fire Millen."

With the Lions eliminated from playoff contention for roughly the last nine weeks, stories and speculation regarding the Honolulu blue-and-silver is all about one man, the guy hired to turn around a 9-7 franchise.

(And no, nothing changes after a hard-fought, seven-point loss to the New England Patriots. When your most notable games of the year are a loss to the defending NFC champions and a loss to the Super Bowl champions of two seasons ago, things are just plain ill.)

The free-for-all probably officially began with Millen's fine quote dated the Monday following the Kitty Cats' defining 17-10 loss at the Arizona Cardinals.

"I don't even know what you're talking about," ran the man's line as reported by Steve Pate of the Oakland Press. "Don't even ask that."

While the question begging this response could have related to really any subject from his plan for the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft to offensive coordinator Mike Martz's future, it actually regarded whether "he had given any thought at all to stepping down as club president."

Again, Millen's answer: "I don't even know what you're talking about. Don't even ask that."

Meanwhile ESPN wag Bill Simmons threw in his pithy two cents with "Here's the week when Lions fans stop asking each other, 'Why the hell haven't they fired Millen yet?' and start asking, 'Wait, do you realize we could have taken Leinart last April ... why the hell haven't we fired Millen yet?'"

Sports Illustrated online edition ran a tiny item from Philadelphia sportswriter Paul Domowitch. SI.com essentially ran the entire seemingly unsubstantiated rumor: "Matt Millen's wretched 6-year tenure as the Lions' general manager appears to be close to an end. Millen will sit down with owner William Clay Ford after the season, and that meeting is expected to result in Millen finally stepping down/getting fired."

Aside from coming out of Philly, a distinctly non-Lions market, Domowitch's reportage feels a bit strange by dint of the fact that no one else has reported on this particular meeting. While an off-season meeting between Millen and Ford may actually happen, there is nothing to suggest that Millen will in fact find himself unemployed in 2007. (Except of course, status as the 31st or 32nd best team in the NFL - a fact that has yet to hurt Millen's standing with The Boss to this point.)

Heck, the guys in the Motor City paid to watch this stuff (where "stuff" is a loose synonym for "Detroit Lions football") on a daily basis seemingly wouldn't believe a word suggesting Millen's going through the out door even if it made every non-Michigan headline in the country.

Poor cynical Free-Press sportswriter Drew Sharp believes that Ford the Elder looks upon Millen as the son he never had. While vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. may know what's best for the football team, Daddy Ford values Millen's stubborn loyalty (And who wouldn't be loyal to a guy who distributes six-figure checks for incompetence?) more than Junior's business head.

Sharp's colleague Nicholas J. Costonika goes so far as to suggest that it's simply too late to fire Millen in article that might have caused a wave of subscription cancellations had not most of Detroit tuned out Lions news long ago. Incredibly writes Costonika, "Like it or not, this is the reality: Millen has to remain with the Lions long enough to give [head coach Rod Marinelli] a fair shot to turn things around."

Really? The reality as this writer sees it is simply that, keeping Marinelli firing Millen tomorrow will do nothing to erase the influence the guy will continue to have over this team for the remainder of this decade.

Mike Williams, a.k.a. The Most Useless Player In The NFL, is merely the poster boy for a clump of moves made under Millen's jurisdiction that will affect the team's ability to dig itself out of holy mess it's in. among them. Williams holds a contract of $13.5 million with $9.5 million guaranteed; he's signed through 2009. Also signed through that season is Charles Rogers, who was thrown $14.5 million in signing bonus alone on a contract worth up to $55 million.

Upon cutting Rogers, Millen was quoted in the Associated Press as stating "Maybe this is just one of those wrong-place, wrong-time things."

Hmmm, maybe.

Joey Harrington, currently giving Miami Dolphins fans hope for a mad dash at the playoffs, was signed for six years (through 2008) for $36.5 million. Harrington was iced from the roster by Marinelli after being forced to try and adapt to game plans from three different head coaches. At least Millen saved the team the $4 million roster bonus Harrington would have made in 2007. Surely, it will all have been worth it for that crucial sixth-round pick.

The Lions are still throwing money out the window due to Dan Wilkinson's contract. And would you believe Steve Mariucci is still on the Detroit payroll for this year?

One rumor regarding the Houston Texans', um, interesting choice of Mario Williams at No. 1 says that team officials, after meeting with Reggie Bush and his agent, simply decided they didn't want to pay the contract Bush could command as top pick. Ergo, the slightly cheaper Williams.

Putting the Lions in the top spot on the draft board, even if Millen can show restraint for overhyped star talent as he did this year, guarantees nothing. Could Detroit pay a No. 1 pick enough? Marinelli has stated that Jon Kitna is the quarterback he wants for his system, but does this truly indicate that Troy Smith and/or Brady Quinn will be spared the title of Lions savior? And hasn't it been a while since the potential No. 1 pick publicly stated his refusal to play for the league's beatdogs, a la John Elway?

There is exactly one compelling argument against firing Millen. Ford Sr. is the guy that ultimately approved Millen's hire and will be the rubber stamp for the new president and/or general manager of the Lions. Can he be trusted? After all, Isaiah Thomas should be looking for a new gig by Draft Day...

"Fire Millen?" The proponents of this argument rhetorically ask, "What's the point?"

RealFootball365.com: perpetually firing Millen from the Detroit Lions.
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About Os Davis

Os Davis has taken a twisted route to get to RealFootball365.com in his nearly 17 years in professional writing, working in any number of capacities in the sportswriting, news reporting and film criticism worlds. In print media, Os has served as editor at a few publications, including Albuquerque's...
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