I know that Millen was the worst GM in the history of sports. I know he couldn't really do much worse in terms of talent evaluation for certain schemes. Despite the misery that he put us Lions fans through, he did make a few moves that might end up benefiting us in the long run.
Hiring Martin Mayhew.
Mayhew was hired by Millen as an assistant in 2001. He also served as a GM assistant up until he finally took over for him in 2008. Mayhew has seen everything that possibly could be the wrong way to run a franchise and seems to have learned from his ex-boss' mistakes. He has proved to everybody that he has the intelligence and savvy to pull off remarkable trades and make smart personnel moves , such as the Roy Williams trade and acquiring Kyle VandenBosch and Nate Burleson. Both of his drafts have been highly rated by most critics and seems to be drafting the right players He had also hired seemingly competent coach in Schwartz who has the ship in the right direction just two offseasons removed from 0-16.
Drafting Calvin Johnson
Sure, at the time it seemed like a no-brainer to draft this guy. But for all of flack that Millen got for drafting 3 wide receivers prior to him, he actually made the right decision this time around. Calvin Johnson is an all-pro wide receiver who can stretch the field vertically an has the ability to beat any corner deep. This was the best draft pick in Millen's entire career in Detroit, and Johnson is the Lions best offensive player.
The 2008 Draft Class
By far the best year for Matt Millen was this class. It produced one of our best defensive players in Cliff Avril, a back-up d-tackle that has promise in Andre Fluellen, a starting full back in Jerome Felton, a promising running back that could be pretty good if not for injuries in Kevin Smith, and though it seems like he missed on this class too, he did give us some pretty decent players from 2008.
This is a fact, no matter how many different coaches and players this team acquires, these two have always been the starting left tackle and center. Reliable, durable, and tough. Despite all of the flack that both of these two player get, there is a good reason that they have never been replaced. Even though Raiola is under-sized, he's a feisty player with a mean streak who makes good calls on the line. Backus has had some up and down years, but he is a rock at left tackle and doesn't miss games. Stafford wouldn't want any other tackle despite Peppers blowing by him and injuring Stafford, which says a lot.
Finally, he will make our Superbowl run a lot more special
When we do get to the Superbowl, we will be the cinderella team of the ages. From having the worst GM in sports history, having the worst record in every category for an entire decade, and being the only team to ever go 0-16, to go to the Superbowl and upset a highly favored team would make this team the most special team in the history of the NFL, all because of the ineptness that Millen brought to this franchise. I'm excited that we finally have a GM in Mayhew that knows how to run a team, a coaching staff that knows how to coach, and players that know how to play. To think that a decade ago we would be the worst team of the 2000's and to be in this position where we are finally optimistic enough for a playoff run, it's remarkable.
Thanks in a small way to Matt Millen. He had his hands in some of this, believe it or not.