I can’t believe I’m saying this.
Neither can you, and I don’t guess your bitterness will be swayed so easily, but this is something that needs to be said.
Matt Millen, for all his shortcomings, for all the damage he did to the Detroit Lions franchise, for all of his stubborn press conferences and personnel decisions, still deserves a pass.
You heard me right.
I think. I’m still not sure I’m actually saying this, but I’m letting it ride.
I’ve been inspired to come to Millen’s defense because of all the backlash he has gotten from Lions fans since starting his recent TV gigs on NFL Network and NBC.
At one time, I would have joined right in, jeering him along with the rest of you. That time was not so long ago (you can measure it in weeks), but having heard the flame-tipped tongue lashings Millen has taken from my fellow Lions fans recently, I must say I do not revel in them one bit.
I’m not going to sit here and try to reason that we should feel sorry for the man. Like any player, coach, or executive, he bears the responsibility for his actions and decisions. Lions fans have developed a distaste for him because of those things, and that’s fine.
But there’s an important element to note here: Millen is no longer with the team. The rallying cry for the futile Lions over the past several seasons, "Fire Millen," has manifested.
The war is over.
So why do Lions fans continue to fight the battle?
From what I can tell, Lions fans feel that Millen has no right to get paid for an "expert" opinion, when his tenure with the Lions removes his credibility as an "expert" at anything but running a franchise into the ground. Does that sound about right?
Well, get over it. Millen was a terrible GM but a top-notch broadcaster, and like it or not he did a good job in the booth. Maybe his talent is breaking down complicated football trends to the average fan, and not leading them to make good personnel and management decisions.
Whatever his talents, getting angry because Millen is reprising his role as a broadcaster is absurd.
Let’s flip the situation.
Let’s say you worked for a major corporation, let’s say in public relations, and you’re good at it. Then someone came to you with an offer to work in an executive position in marketing. You take it, and you’re not very good, but you hold the job for a while—perhaps longer than you should—before finally losing it. Does that mean you’re not good at PR?
No, and Millen’s failure with the Lions doesn’t mean he’s a bad broadcast analyst or a bad person. It just means he’s a bad football executive, nothing more.
To be fair, Millen has done his fair share to draw this ire. He seems to take little responsibility for his actions in Detroit, sarcastically portraying himself as a "fall guy" for all of Detroit’s problems, including the housing market, the auto industry, and Kwame Kilpatrick.
Well, no, Matt, you’re not responsible for those things, but a 31-84 record with a reputation for spectacular draft busts is not inspiring to the good people of Michigan, and belittling the problems of the city of Detroit is not a great way to mend fences.
What you are responsible for is the Detroit Lions, circa 2001-2008, and fans have a right to be angry with you for those years.
But this is 2009. He’s not on the hook anymore. The franchise has moved on, and few can say it’s in the wrong direction. There may already be more talent on the roster now than there has been since Millen took over the franchise, and that’s in a single offseason.
It’s over, ladies and gentlemen. The Millen Years are over, so let them be over. Millen is not evil incarnate and he didn’t sabotage the team on purpose; he’s just a guy who loves football, knows a bit about it, and got in over his head. Anybody who has met him actually thinks he’s a stand-up guy.
Now he’s a broadcast analyst again, where he was once well-liked by both viewers and colleagues. So if you don’t want to hear what he has to say, change the channel. Boycott him, for all I care. Maybe the networks will get the message—probably not.
Regardless, Lions fans don’t need this hate. Not anymore. The 2009 season is supposed to be the first season of the rest of the franchise’s life. This is the time to look forward to the future with hopes and dreams of a winning record, playoffs, and a Super Bowl.
So make this a clean breakup. Being bitter and hateful about an ex-girlfriend never did me a bit of good, no matter how much they hurt me when we were together. What did me good was moving on and starting fresh.
Millen hurt me, too. He hurt all of us, but he’s moving on, he’s better for it, and it’s time we did the same.
Dean Holden is the "Voice of the Lions" on NFLTouchdown.com. Check it out for in-depth analysis on the Lions and all 31 other NFL teams.