Where are the playmakers?

Two years ago, Lions president and CEO Matt Millen bemoaned the lack of playmakers on the Detroit roster. Now Millen seems to be more concerned about the cap figure than keeping top-notch talent. Lionsfans.com wants to know, where are the playmakers?

(ALLEN PARK, MI)--Two years ago, Matt Millen took over at the helm of a team that was 9-7 and just barely missed making the playoffs by losing the season finale lackluster finish against the then sad-sack Chicago Bears.

Millen spoke passionately about the lack of playmakers on a team that included Johnnie Morton, Herman Moore, Germane Crowell, Bryant Westbrook, Robert Porcher, Stephen Boyd and Charlie Batch.

He talked about how Detroit needed to increase its overall team speed, improve depth and above all, find playmakers. Guys who could 'make a difference', Millen said.

When he looked at the roster, he didn't see enough playmakers.

Flash forward two years into the Millen regime and a general housekeeping has taken place. Gone are Moore, Morton, Westbrook, Boyd, Batch and many others.

But one thing remains the same, Detroit still doesn't have any difference makers. Sure, there are players like Crowell and first round pick Joey Harrington, who MAY become a player, but looking at Detroit's roster, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who puts fear into the hearts of the opposition.

The closest thing to it might be Az-Zahir Hakim. Hakim is a speed burner to be sure, but he has a tendency to play "dropsy" with the football. If Hakim can hold onto the ball, he has star potential, but the reader should beware whenever the "P" word is used.

Germane Crowell has shown flashes of being the receiver who broke all of Herman Moore's college records at Virginia, but Crowell can't seem to stay healthy long enough to be a factor.

Then there's Detroit's newest hope Joey Harrington. Harrington comes with that "P" word too, but you know he has skills. The problem Harrington will face is the same one that plagued Charlie Batch before him, lack of a solid offensive line.

Even if Harrington proves to be a difference maker, he's going to be running for his life trying do make a play. Millen inexplicably allowed Jeff Hartings, a franchise offensive lineman and former #1 draft pick, entering the prime of his career to walk away from the team for nothing.

With the NFL's second worst offensive line 'protecting' him, how can he be expected to make plays? He can't do it from his backside or from the bench injured.

Somewhere along the line, Millen seemed to change his focus from acquiring playmakers to saving cap dollars. Detroit released Morton because he was due a signing bonus that was deemed too expensive. Hartings was deemed too expensive. Batch was too expensive.

Yet, Detroit will eat nearly $9 million in cap money from the early release of Batch and Moore. Its offensive line is in a shambles from the losses of Hartings, super bowl champ Mike Compton and others.

And still, no playmakers.

While my colleague Joey Lafferty has pointed out that this is a pivotal year for Marty Mornhinweg-- the likely scapegoat if Detroit opens up Ford Field with a less than 6 win season-- Millen shouldn't be too far behind.

Millen came in preaching his knowledge of players, his eye for playmakers and his wealth of knowledge acquired from picking the brains of GM and NFL Presidents around the league while broadcasting for FOX sports.

If he indeed does have that wealth of knowledge, why aren't we seeing the results. When Detroit lost Hartings, Millen said in a broadcast interview that their were other players out there capable of doing the job that fans and broadcasters didn't even know about.

OK, fair enough, and Matt Joyce has been a serviceable guy, but the fact remains that Detroit had one of the worst offensive lines in football. Where's the knowledge?

What's the deal with the secondary? Two years ago with Kurt Schulz, Ron Rice, Bryant Westbrook and Terry Fair, Detroit was among the league's take away leaders. Now the secondary is in a shambles and Detroit could start the league's oldest pair of corners in Eric Davis and Todd Lyght. Where's the eye for players?

To be fair, we're just two years into Millen's regime and perhaps, with his housecleaning virtually done, perhaps the 2003 offseason is the year Detroit adds the playmakers and support players to make a run to their first ever Super Bowl.

But even Millen ally Peter King was pessimistic about that. In a ranking of all 32 NFL teams, King ranked Detroit offseason moves as only 26th and that was before the Cincinnati Bengals acquired wide receiver Michael Westbrook.

King wrote Detroit "overpaid Az Hakim, who is not an every-down receiver, and left themselves lighter by $8.75 million on the cap next year by cutting Herman Moore and Charlie Batch. I have no idea how this team is going to solve its long-term problems."

If you're going to get rid of the players you have to clear cap space, then use it to go out and get the playmakers you said you needed.

Detroit now has no cap space, no playmakers and little talent on the roster.

C'mon Matt, where are the playmakers?

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