Analysis: Millen Must Go Immediately

If I haven't said it enough so that you understand my position I will say it again, Lions' GM Matt Millen must go immediately. Detroit should not wait until the end of the season to do the deed because they need to prepare for the draft and the start of the free agency period. When they do so, they must have a clear idea of what their strengths (I'm not joking) and their weaknesses are.

(ALLEN PARK) – If I haven’t said it enough so that you understand my position I will say it again, Lions' GM and President Matt Millen must go immediately.

Detroit should not wait until the end of the season to do the deed because they need to prepare for the draft and the start of the free agency period. When they do so, they must have a clear idea of what their strengths (I’m not joking) and their weaknesses are.

They also need a clear view of what moves must be made right now and which ones can wait another season to address. Most directly, they must act decisively and wisely.

Three seasons ago, William Clay Ford, Sr. acted decisively, but not wisely when he hired Matt Millen out of the Fox television broadcast booth and put him atop his organization as President and GM. It was a good idea, but it was executed poorly.

Instead of grabbing a guy with no front office experience out of the broadcast booth and naming him president and GM –and paying him $5 million a year to bungle the franchise – Mr. Ford should have looked around a bit.

Retired Green Bay Packers president and GM Ron Wolf would accept a call from William Clay Ford, Sr. or Bill Ford, Jr., so would former San Francisco 49er executive Bill Walsh, who twice built a successful team from the rubble in the Bay Area. Another candidate is former Lions executive Michael Huyghue who is now in a private law practice after leaving the Jacksonville Jaguars. While the Jags are a mess now, they were a playoff contender under Huyghues’ regime and he is a qualified minority candidate to boot.

Pick all three men’s brains, interview several candidates, including those three and make winning the top priority, not a guy who can talk a good game or who’ll chum around with you on the golf course and at practice.

Now, just so they don’t blow it again, here’s what the Lions need to do right now.

First, elevate all the young players on this team to the playing roster. It really doesn’t matter if they play well or not. The team needs to know exactly what it has when it goes into the draft and free agency period this offseason. Detroit isn’t going to win more than another game or two, the younger guys will gain valuable experience and be ready to contribute in 2004.

Detroit needs to see fifth-round pick James Davis at middle linebacker, sixth-round pick David Kircus at wide receiver, third-round pick Cory Redding at defensive end and most importantly they need to see fourth-round selection Artose Pinner play in a football game this year, even if it is the last one of the season and even if it means cutting someone else only to watch Pinner sit until Week 16. Also, get fifth-round pick Terrence Holt into some game situations.

They ought to say goodbye to players who are past 30 who aren’t producing. Goodbye to stopgaps like Earl Holmes, Corey Harris, Bill Schroeder, Mikhael Ricks, Otis Smith, Kelvin Pritchett, Jared DeVries, Bracy Walker and others like them. These guys have had their chances with either Detroit or with other squads to show that they are part of the answer and haven’t gotten it done; they aren’t going to get it done here either.

Other valuable older players who bring professionalism and class to the organization like Robert Porcher and Ray Brown who are clearly at the end of the line as players ought to be kept in the organization. They just aren’t able to play at a high level in the NFL any longer.

Once you have a clear evaluation of who you are, bring in some consultants, guys who have scouted or coached around the league at one time or another and ask them to watch the team for a few weeks and get their assessment of what your strengths and weaknesses are and take them all into consideration.

Now that you have a well rounded view of what you have, move decisively to grab players who can contribute to the team immediately. First order of business; fix the offense.

Detroit needs two free agent wide receivers that are big, fast, durable and can catch the football. Then go out and sign a YOUNG free agent corner, someone like a Charles Woodson who has four or five good years left in the tank, who’s under 30 and can play at a high level.

The quarterback position is unique and cannot be addressed in the same manner. Detroit seemingly has decided that Mike McMahon isn’t the answer at that position no matter how poorly Joey Harrington plays. Why not bring in a veteran, perhaps someone like a Mark Brunell to be a backup to Harrington, who is the clearly the future of the position. Then you have someone who is prepared to play in case of injury or ineffectiveness.

Prepare for the draft, Detroit will get another high pick. Use it on a home run hitting running back like Stephen Jackson of Oregon State. In the second round address the tight end or linebacker positions.

Detroit has enough talent in the front four that they can likely put off addressing that position for another year or two, especially with players like Shaun Rogers, James Hall, Kalimba Edwards and Redding all under 30 years of age.

Detroit will have to get another guard to replace Brown and make decisions on players like Stockar McDougle, Barrett Green and Brian Walker, but if they make enough good moves, it has been proven that you can turn things around from year-to-year in the NFL.

Matt Millen’s reign has been a disaster. He took a decent 9-7 team and has turned it into the worst franchise in the NFL. Three years in, Detroit isn’t going to get any better over the next nine games.

So why wait until the end of the season? Detroit can’t afford to wait.

After all, isn’t 46 years of losing long enough?


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