(ALLEN PARK, MI)--Matt Millen's statement that he won't fire Marty Mornhinweg if it's his decision is great, but who's going to save him?
The M&M boys now find themselves needing a huge upset of either the Alanta Falcons on the road, or against the Tampa Bay Bucs this Sunday at Ford Field to save their jobs. Neither is likely to happen and the final chapter in this failed experiment could be written with the last home game of the season against the Minnesota Vikings.
It didn't have to be this way.
If only Millen had shown a little more restraint in his overhauling of this roster. If only they had spent their free agent money a little wiser. If not for a few bad decisions, the Lions could have been sniffing around the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
Don't believe it? Look at three teams that were in Detroit's shoes a year ago, New York, Carolina and Buffalo. Buffalo shook up their coaching staff installing rookie head man Gregg Williams. They added a veteran quarterback in Drew Bledsoe and dumped a few aging veterans. Buffalo is currently at 6-7 still arguably in the playoff race.
The Carolina Panthers were left for dead after last year's 3-13 finish. Instead, ancient Rodney Peete and a few roster tweaks have the Panthers at 5-8, not playoff bound, but a lot better than the 3-10 mark Detroit currently sports.
Look at the New York Jets. Rather than immediately dumping veteran quarterback Vinnie Testaverde, Herman Edwards played the veteran for two years and then turned the reigns over to talented third-year man Chad Pennington. The Jets are now 7-6 and heading toward another playoff appearance.
Around the league, players such as Charlie Batch, David Sloan, Johnnie Morton, Mike Compton and Jeff Hartings are contributors on winning teams. Each has a shot at the playoffs with their new teams while Detroit flounders with a worse record than expansion Houston. It's understandable to lop off aging veterans like Herman Moore, Allen Aldridge and Kurt Schulz of the world, realistic to dump injured players like Stephen Boyd and Ron Rice, but why solid players who could still contribute?
After posting a 2-14 season, Detroit spent their first round pick on Joey Harrington, a player who'll likely be a good quarterback in the league in a couple of seasons. But with Harrington at the helm, Mornhinweg must go to full teaching mode, reigning in the offense to protect at all costs, including winning games the new face of the franchise.
Does Mornhinweg know something we don't?
Some sources say he was promised next year when he put Harrington under center three weeks into the season as the starter. Indeed, William Clay Ford, Sr. came out publicly in favor of Mornhinweg, stating he would be Detroit's coach "for a long, long time."
Still, you'd have to think some changes are inevitable if Detroit finishes the season with a eight-game losing streak no matter what promises were made. Even if Mornhinweg was promised the year, this is the NFL, promises are made to be broken.
The decision is Ford, Sr's to make. Bill Ford, Jr. who initially championed the hiring of Millen, is incensed at his president now because he realizes he's been sold a bill of goods. Millen promised Ford he could get this organization to a Super Bowl, after all, he had five rings himself and his position as a Fox analysts had enabled him to spy talent all over the league and talk to the most knowledgeable people in all 30 opposing organizations.
Instead, Detroit has just five wins in two years to show for all of Millen's "knowledge."
How can Jr. go to Dad now and say "Fire the guy I told you would take us to the Super Bowl"?
Rumors now have Millen being broomed in favor of former New Orleans Saints' GM Randy Mueller, now unemployed. But regardless, there's no going back now. The damage to the roster has been done. It's easy to get rid of players, the tough part is in finding and acquiring talent playmakers.
Millen says with one more year and better success in the free agent market, he can turn this thing around.
The question is, does anyone believe him?