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Was it really Matt Millen's fault?

Matt Millen and Lions owner William Clay Ford
Did Matt Millen need to be fired? Absolutely! Under his watch, the Detroit Lions fell from being respectful to being a laughing stock. There is no doubt Millen needed to be fired. But was it really all his fault?

I know everyone wants to place the blame on Millen for drafting Joey Harrington and drafting a receiver with the Detroit Lions first round pick, three seasons in a row and four out of five years. But looking back, I dont know if I say it was Millen making the picks or if it was Ford senior making the picks.

While in office Matt Millen drafted seven seasons. Five of those were the flashy position player that everyone drools over. Matt Millen was a Linebacker when he played in the NFL. Millen was not the flashy player type. He was the type of person you would expect to draft the grimy hard hitting defensive players when he can. For him to draft a flashy offensive player five times out of seven years? Just doesn't sit right with me. Then Millen was finally fired and the Detroit Lions have a new front office, a new coach and a new scheme. Around 60% of the fans wanted the Lions to draft the Linebacker or the Offensive Lineman. What did the Lions draft in the first year post Millen? The flashy Quarterback. With the worst defense in the NFL for the second straight year and possibly the worst defense ever, and one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, the Lions drafted offense with their first 2 picks. Now I have to consider.... Maybe it wasn't Millen drafting but Ford senior making the picks!

In my opinion, Millen made only two mistakes, though disastrous mistakes they were. One was simply that he became a 'Yes Man' to Ford. The other was his inability to hire a good coach.

Millen's first move in the Lions front office was to fire Gary Moeller, the last good coach the Lions have had, and replace him with Morninwheg. Lets be honest, Marty had no idea what he was doing as a coach. When Millen fired Morninwheg, he replaced him with Steve Mariucci. Mariucci, or 'Smooch' as I call him, ran a day camp rather than a football camp. The man had no guts whatsoever. Smooch was afraid to discipline his players, allowing the flashy receivers he had to not practice hard. They ran bad routes, never got open and couldn't catch and let the blame fall on Joey Harrington. Smooch also called a pansy style of football games. Always looking for the high percentage receptions, he rarely called for a pass more than 5 or 6 yards down field and never called plays across the middle like slants and posts. Defenses knew they did not have to worry about those calls so they guarded against the high percentage plays. After Smooch was gone, Millen hired Marinelli. a coach who had no real experience and who had no give in him. Rod Marinelli would not adjust his game plan to what the defense gave him or to the talent on his team. In his refusal to adjust, he delivered the Lions the worst season in NFL history.

If we blame the draft picks on Millen, I would still say they were not all that bad. I wonder how good those receivers could have been if they had a good coach from the beginning who wouldn't let them grow spoiled and lazy. I wonder how good Joey could have been if he had a decent scheme with decent receivers or a decent offensive line. Remember, Millen drafted two gritty type of players in the first round. Ernie Simms and Gosder Cherilus. Ernie Simms was the only Linebacker on the team who looks like he could be good (before the additions of Peterson and Foote). Cherilus looked much better as the season went on last year and may be the Lions best lineman.

Sure Millen deserved to be fired, but I just cant help but to wonder. Was he the problem? Or did he take the fall for Mr. Ford? What kind of difference would it have made if Millen had kept Moeller as the Head Coach? How much better would the Lions have been if Millen made all the choices and Ford made none?

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