Millen's mess will haunt Lions Print
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Thursday, 25 September 2008 12:30
NFL Headline News

 ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -Detroit Lions fans got what they wanted when one of the most vilified executives in sports was fired.
But Matt Millen's mess might linger for years even if the franchise finally finds a miracle worker or two to be its general manager and coach.
The Lions face a daunting task of making up for draft-day busts such as quarterback Joey Harrington and receiver Charles Rogers, the No. 3 and No. 2 picks overall in 2002 and 2003.
Instead of leading Detroit in the prime of their careers, both are out of the league.
``They can't do it alone,'' Millen said in a 2003 interview with The Associated Press. ``But in order for us to get where we want to get, we can't look back and say we missed with those guys.''
Unfortunately for the Lions, they did miss on those guys, as they whiffed on many other draft picks, and firing Millen won't change that.
Receiver Mike Williams, the No. 10 pick in 2005, also is an ex-NFL player.
with busts. That fact hurts the Lions now and will in the years to come.
Of course, the men in charge of running the franchise for the rest of the season disagree.
``The perception inside the building is what matters to us,'' Lions executive vice president Tom Lewand told beat writers Thursday. ``You focus on the positive. You remove the negative.''
Coach Rod Marinelli has been sticking with the similar mantra for two-plus seasons and the results have not been good on Sundays. The Lions are an NFC-worst 10-25 since hiring Marinelli, making Millen's final record an NFL-worst 31-84 since 2001.
Detroit fell behind 21-0 in its first two games and 21-3 in its third en route to routs and an 0-3 record.
But Lewand and new general manager Martin Mayhew insisted it's not time to invest in the future by playing younger players such as second-year quarterback Drew Stanton over veteran Jon Kitna.
``Sacrificing the season, that's like you're speaking a foreign language,'' Mayhew said to a reporter.
One would think Marinelli is motivated to win as many games as he can to save his job by playing Kitna over Stanton or fourth-year QB Dan Orlovsky, both of whom haven't had much a chance to show what they can do in games.
Even though playing the young quarterbacks would give the franchise a better idea what it has behind center, Lewand and Mayhew said such decisions will be left to Marinelli.
After a bye this week, the Lions will host the Chicago Bears.
``This is about beating the Chicago Bears, then going on the road to beat the Minnesota Vikings and the next game,'' Lewand said. ``For everybody. Myself. Martin. Rod Marinelli.
``We are in complete lock step that we're going to create a culture immediately to support the coaches and players because we have a lot of football left to play this year. This is a 13-game season for us and we're going to make the most of it.''
When team owner William Clay Ford announced Millen was fired Wednesday, he declared in a statement that the front-office leaders would report directly to him and be in place until the end of the season, when an evaluation of the franchise will be done.
Philadelphia Eagles general manager Tom Heckert, who concedes final say on decisions to coach and executive vice president Andy Reid, would be a great candidate if he's willing to return to his home state to save the Motor City's NFL franchise.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher would be a great choice to be on the sideline if he could be convinced the Lions aren't as hopeless as they seem - and if Cowher wants to return to coaching at all.
But even if the Ford family finally finds the right people to lead the Lions, it might be moot because of the mess Millen left behind.
 

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