The Worst GM Ever Is Finally Gone

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - October 01, 2008
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It’s surprising what can appear out of the doom and gloom on a dark and rainy morning. Making your way slowly through the mire that is pelting your wind-shield, straining to see behind the barely functional wipers that should have been replaced a month ago, one can hardly expect a sudden burst of brilliance to cut through the despair.

But it happened.

No sooner did I power up the work station Mac than the words that most Detroit fans prayed to one day read came leaping from the electronic pages: Matt Millen fired by the Lions!

Put up the streamers and uncork the celebratory sacrificial grapes. The most incompetent era of professional sports management has come to an end. Hallelujah, hallelujah. No more Millen Man Marches in protest, no more dodging Ford Field security for hoisting “Fire Millen” signs, no more images hung in effigy and no more reason for fans in Minnesota and Chicago to mock their incompetent interdi-vision rivals with signs of support for the Lions’ former president and CEO.

After seven seasons and a league worst 31-84 record, and facing a hostile fan base ready to fire bomb the stadium bearing the family name, the owner of the franchise that has seen only one playoff victory since the country sported buzz cuts and young gals donned their prettiest poodle skirts for a night at the hop has finally sent off the worst executive in the history of professional sports. But don’t worry about Matt, he’s got a nice Honolulu Blue-and-silver parachute that will continue to pay him at least a portion of his $5 million-per-year-contract that runs through 2010, meaning the maintenance on his 1775 vintage Pennsylvania home will continue without fail.

The Millen era was not just bad, it was historic in its failure and misdirection: 58 coaches, a Cleveland Spideresque .270 winning percentage, an 8-60 road record, last in scoring defense (25.3) and third worst in scoring offense (18.3), and draft strategies that can only be called bizarre. Three consecutive seasons picking wide receivers in the first round and a fourth two years later often results in such labels.

But for all the rug-cutting now under way throughout the Mitten State, a big question looms on the horizon for one of the league’s oldest franchises - who’s the next to be fired or hired? Millen has to take much of the heat for the team’s recent failures, but the problems go much deeper than the four-time Super Bowl-winning linebacker. The team needs a complete reorganization from top to bottom.

While firing an owner is not possible, the next best move for the franchise would be the retirement of its 83-year-old owner, leaving his son, Bill Jr. - who got the ax to fall with his public comments about Millen - as the leader of the once middling franchise. It’s no real open secret that Junior was exasperated with the team’s showing and that he’s champing at the bit to take over control. Plus, he couldn’t do any worse.

From there the team’s next priority is to hire a Bill Parcells-type executive with no allegiances to current employees and little patience for failure. Whoever this person is will have to gut the scouting department where employees have been able to consistently misread talent for two decades and, of course, find a head coach who is going to do more than stock the roster with over-the-hill and under-performing players from his previous place of employment.

Currently, the biggest name circulating around the rumor mill has the team making a hard push to sign former Steelers’ head coach Bill Cowher to whatever job he desires. Cowher has proved his status as an elite coach who won even as his roster underwent constant turnover, and would make a good executive in charge of evaluating and stockpiling talent. But for any higher position, one that is responsible for the day-to-day operations of a multibillion-dollar business, the Lions must look for more than an impressive coaching resume. A phone call to Patriots’vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli would be a good start if they decide not to offer the job to former Titans’GM Floyd Reese who has already expressed interest in the job.

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