Millen Sequel Should Include Less Responsibility

If Lions' VP Matt Millen re-ups with the team, he should have less responsibility, delegate more authority.

(ALLEN PARK) - The word out of Allen Park over the weekend was the Lions President and GM Matt Millen will be offered an extension by Lions owner William Clay Ford, Sr. That is no surprise. The last thing Ford, Sr. wants is to have to search for a qualified candidate, try to get to know them personally and then entrust them with his organization.

Remember Ford, Sr. was skeptical of even bringing in Millen when prodded by his son, vice-chairman William Clay Ford, Jr to restructure the organization. Yet, the very likeable Millen charmed the elder Ford and he was hooked. Millen can stay as long as he wants.

But in his consideration of what his niche is in the organization, Millen should be totally honest with himself and ask, how much time does he really want to devote to the job and how much responsibility should he continue to assume?

Apparently one of Millen's sons is going to enroll at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, which should make things more comfortable for the Lions GM. Still, he knows he wants to be around to see his son play linebacker for the U.S. Military Academy at West Pointe under former Lions' head coach Bobby Ross, so he may still be splitting time between Detroit and his native Pennsylvania.

Millen has done a nice job since he fired personnel director Bill Tobin and took over responsibility of the draft for himself. He's added quality young players like linebackers Boss Bailey, Teddy Lehman, Alex Lewis and James Davis. This year's draft added receiver Roy Williams and running back Kevin Jones, likely to be mainstays of the organization for years to come along with up and coming corner Keith Smith, a diamond in the rough. For better or for worse, Detroit has their quarterback of the future in Joey Harrington.

But Millen has struggled in the area of free agency and that has hurt the Lions dearly. Millen's first decision in that arena continued to haunt the franchise - allowing guard/center Jeff Hartings to walk away - right up until this offseason, three full years.

After trying to pass off journeyman Brenden Stai as a viable replacement, eventually he traded him away, taking a serious cap hit to do so. Finally this off-season Millen overpayed for guard/center Damien Woody of the New England Patriots. Hartings has been a fixture of a solid Steelers offensvie front since his departure. A similar situation was allowing Johnnie Morton to leave in favor of Bill Schroeder.

Lions history shows that Millen's efforts in this arena has been hit or miss, with no consistent improvement. The signing of corner Dre' Bly, who rewarded the team with a pro bowl appearance last season, was a huge hit, but the signing of fellow former Rams receiver Az-Zahir Hakim has met with mixed results. While Woody has been solid, journeyman David Loverne has been less than stellar.

Too many times it appears that Millen has allowed his personal feelings to cloud his judgement in what should be strictly business decisions. The Hartings situation was one instance, the handling of backup receiver Scotty Anderson was another, the Johnnie Morton situation was still another. Millen has shown loyalty to guys he brought into the organization, but if a player can play, it really doesn't matter how he got to Detroit.

Retaining talent ought to be the main objective.

So it will be interesting to see how Millen handles Detroit's two most important impending free agents this offseason; defensive tackle Shaun Rogers and offensive tackle Stockar McDougle. Rogers is one of Millen's guys. The President/GM was lauded far and wide for his acquisition of Rogers in the second round when many thought he was a sure first rounder if not for an injury suffered in his senior season. Rogers will likely be voted to a starting position in the Pro Bowl this winter.

McDougle was not one of Millen's guys. He was drafted by the previous regime as a late first round pick from Oklahoma. But McDougle has developed into a near Pro Bowl caliber player and with some mentoring from Woody they have formed a rock solid tandem on the Lions right side.

But lately talk has surfaced that Detroit is considering allowing McDougle to walk because his salary demands are too high. While there is a breaking point on nearly every negotiation, Millen has to be careful his personal feelings don't enter in. And if, indeed, McDougle does walk away, Detroit can't try to pass off an inferior player as a replacement ala Stai-for-Hartings.

The president might be better served turning this area of expertise over to his hand-picked assistant Martin Mayhew or even classy pro personnel director Sheldon White and trust them to make the right decisions. Believe me, there's enough credit to go around.

A good leader knows how to delegate. That shows humility and gives others that you have trust in a measure of authority. The jury's still out on whether Millen has really progressed and learned on the job in this area.

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