Cook: And There Was Much Rejoicing

Ironically, the Detroit Lions' biggest -- and only -- victory of the season so far came as they go into their bye week. Award-winning columnist James Cook shares his take on the firing of Matt Millen.

And there was much rejoicing.

The Matt Millen era is done, but the Detroit Lions' struggles are far from over.

Ironically, the Lions' biggest -- and only -- victory of the season so far came as they go into their bye week. It just figures, because you can't count on a win in any other week.

All around the country, overrated college wide receivers are disappointed, as their chances of being top 10 draft picks just got cut in half.

All around the NFL, general managers found out there actually was a person running the disaster known as the Detroit Lions. None rushed to update their resumes.

All around Michigan, Lions fans cheered, jumped for joy and then realized the Lions are still 0-3 and in possession of the worst defense in the league.

Face it, getting rid of Millen is a step in the right direction. But it isn't a total solution.

The Lions still have one of the worst owners in the NFL, mostly because he doesn't know much about football and doesn't seem to care if the team wins or not. Just as long as it makes a profit.

Maybe Bill Ford Jr. will be different, but we'll see. At least he has an interest in the sport and the guts to realize something needs to be done -- and then say something about it.

His rant about Millen needing to go seems to be the impetus for this whole chain of events that turned a bye week into a goodbye week.

Oh, and there is no truth to the rumor that Tatum Bell was there to help Millen with his bags.

Millen's failings are numerous, many of which revolve around his failure to evaluate talent, especially at wide receiver. Everyone cites Charles Rogers and Mike Williams, but Millen got off on a bad foot with receivers right from the get-go when he signed Bill Schroeder and Az-Zahir Hakim to big-money contracts. Neither panned out, like many of his free agent forays.

There's the disastrous signing of Damien Woody, who nearly ate himself out of Detroit and dwarfed even Kwame Kilpatrick by the time he left Detroit. Kenoy Kennedy was supposed to bring a physical presence to the Detroit secondary, but was mainly shown in the background of photos of the opposition racing into the end zone. And then there's using the franchise tag on a purely average left tackle.

The band-aid approach to the secondary -- bringing in over-the-hill or run-of-the-mill players such as Corey Harris, Bracy Walker, R.W. McQuarters, Otis Smith, Alex Molden, Rod Babers, Doug Evans, Vernon Fox and Brock Marion -- forced Millen to over-pay for Dre Bly and Fernando Bryant.

His trades for players rarely ever panned out (Olandis Gary, anyone? How about Tatum Bell?).

And then there's the offensive line, a constant source of anguish for Lions fans. After selecting Jeff Backus and Dominic Raiola in his first draft, Millen would almost completely ignore the O-line on draft day the remainder of his tenure, until selecting Gosder Cherilus in the first round this year. This strategy brought Detroit such star linemen as Brendan Stai, David Loverne and Rick DeMulling.

On draft day, Millen proved to be a quick study on moving around in the draft. That is one area where he excelled. Actually picking quality players, not so much. But some of that blame lies with others, such as Ford (Joey Harrington) and the coaching staffs (Drew Stanton). Busts such as Boss Bailey, Teddy Lehman, Kalimba Edwards, Kevin Jones, Shaun Cody and a string a third-round corners who never became starters just add to the mess.

Even with all that said, it was thought the Lions had assembled a team this season that would be competitive and finish around .500, maybe even slipping up into the reaches of wild card contenders if it caught some breaks. I guess that's still possible, but an 0-3 start with a trio of embarrassing defensive performances and a sputtering offense made things unbearable to watch.

And given last season's second-half performance, don't count on any Wayne Fontes-like miracles late in the year to save the season.

The season appears to be gone. But, luckily, so is Matt Millen.


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