Column: Millen A Question Mark

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Justin Vanfulpen -

PONTIAC- After an 0-7 start, things are not looking that great for the future of the 2001 season, but is it right for the coach to pack it in for the season? That seems to be the message that Lions' head coach Marty Mornhinweg sent to his team by playing Mike McMahon this past Sunday? There are a lot of question marks for this team and organization, and it starts at the top. Everyone was so overjoyed when Matt Millen was hired to run the team, but is he the man that really can turn this organization around? Can it happen next year, or are the Lions going to be a bottom dweller for many years to come?

The NFL will look totally different next season with there being four divisions with four teams in each, in both the AFC and the NFC. Tampa Bay will be moving out of the NFC Central (soon to be North) for the NFC South. So, besides Detroit, it will be the Packers, Bears, and Vikings in the new NFC North -- and all these teams have more overall talent, and potential, then the Lions do. Detroit must evaluate the players that they have on the roster right now and make decisions about the future. The Lions need great free-agent moves and another good draft, but this draft must produce offensive and defensive playmakers with speed. As it is looking right now, the Lions will be able to draft 3 of the top 70 players when April comes around, and with a weaker draft class that is looking like that will be where the impact players will stop coming off the board. But three rookies aren’t going to make a huge impact next season, so there is going to have to be some key free-agent signings and cleaning out some dead wood that is on the roster right now.

Good NFL teams are build in April during the draft and Millen's worst move to date was trading away a fourth round pick for Ty Detmer. His free agent moves have not been the greatest and his choice of coach for the Detroit Lions has not won a game yet in 7 tries. The team has cut team leader DT James Jones; they have also cut a former first round draft pick in OT Aaron Gibson. They have allowed the teams best quarterback to be benched after the first game, they have put WR Herman Moore on IR, although he could be playing right now helping the team. Millen & Co. have alienated fans, and will do more so next summer when the fans won’t be allowed to go regularly to training camp and watch the team practice. Due to the move of the Lions' training camp spot to Allen Park, there won’t be enough room to accomdate the usual fan presence.

Millen's first mistake that offended Lions fans was in April after the NFL draft, when he closed Mini-camp to the public which has never been done before. Many newspapers and other media outlets gave practice times and said it was open to the public, even the Lions office -- when called -- stated those practices were open to the public. Not until that Friday morning did he make the decision to close it to the public, when many fans had all ready traveled up to the Silverdome to watch the team.

The Lions are moving into a new stadium in downtown Detroit, where ticket prices to go watch the Lions will increase significantly. This is despite the fact the Lions won't field a very good product when the season opens in 2002, unless major -- if not, miraculous -- changes are made.

Matt Millen has many questions to answer, and many moves to make, but the real question is he just destroying something or does he really have a plan to build this team into a winner? Right now it doesn’t look like he has any clue whatsoever.

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