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Nate Caminata - LionsFans.com
Matt Millen sat fervently in his luxury suite Sunday afternoon. It was the 4th quarter, and his Lions -- a team he acquired several months ago -- were just two minutes and several seconds away from clinching their first NFL victory ... in 12 attempts.
Detroit led division rival Tampa Bay 12-7 late on the road -- on the brink of finally cashing in on a long-awaited win. Despite playing with a rookie quarterback, and a roster riddled with injuries, the hapless ball club seemed destined for the upset.
Then the inevitable would befall Detroit.
An all too familiar scene played out, as Millen sat effortless watching the Buccaneers engineer an 80-yard scoring drive, concluding on a fluke toss-up to the endzone. Buccaneers 15. Lions 12.
Millen's reaction, broad casted across television screens in the mid west, was brief. A simple bow of the head that told a cruel story that has yet to end.
A rookie vice president, Millen has drawn the camera attention numerous times this season. Unfortunately, the majority of which display Millen playing a fans' role. Slumping into his seat, only to watch another check be filed into the loss column.
Millen is an avid Detroit Lions fan. And not because he's paid to be. He was there from the beginning, whether it was his routine presence at training camp, wrestling with players in the weight room, or simply paying attention to every detail in every single game. All the traits of a die hard fan.
But Millen's role as a fan doesn't end with the nachos stain on a Lions' jersey, or seeking an autograph for his children. He does both. He harbors, perhaps, the most scrutinized position in all of professional football. At least currently.
After taking the reigns of an organization that hasn't witnessed a playoff win in a decade, and has never reached a Super Bowl, Millen hasn't delivered the results many demanded that he retrieve. The Lions are making history, but not in the form that was even thought possible three months ago. When Millen was introduced, Super Bowl thoughts were on the horizon, or -- at the very least -- playoff potential.
Instead, Millen's bunch finds themselves on the boundary of NFL destitution. Already a national laughing stock, Millen remains resolute.
He's under the microscope of everyone in relation to the NFL, whether it be his former peers within the media, or the ones who write his paycheck: the owners. But Millen's goal isn't to impress them, it is to satisfy the fans.
Millen's scheme, initially, was to induce a winning attitude amongst both players and fans. Hence the West coast offense under head coach Marty Mornhinweg, and a slew of "New Attitude" commercials directed towards fans
After an 0-12 start, however, Millen's new directive is to keep the fans intact, and the players with a sense of hope, pride, and purpose. He hasn't, and won't, give up -- which is Millen's most reverberating trait. One needs only to glance into the Lions' locker room for evidence. Depressed? Yes, who wouldn't be. On the verge of throwing in the towel? Not in a million years.
For the first time since 1980, Millen is a rookie in the National Football League. His back is against the wall, and facing the daunting task of turning around an organization, and a ball club. Ironically enough, that was the same task he faced in January.
He's undergoing the most difficult learning process in his young career. Because that, however, Millen can clearly identify each and every aspect of his team that needs to be addressed. And it will be.
His objective remains lucid: Win. Win at all costs.
Be patient, fans, there is a new attitude in Detroit. And it won't take long for the Lions to discover it.