(ALLEN PARK, MI) -- Mariucci In, Mornhinweg out. Great!
Tom Lewand in, Kevin Warren out. OK.
Matt Millen in, Bill Tobin out. Huh? You're kidding, right?
Until recently it was hard not to like the off-season moves that Lions president and chief executive officer Matt Millen made. Detroit was on the cusp of falling off the precept into Cincinnati Bengal-like territory after a disastrous two-year M&M era.
Replacing Marty Mornhinweg with Steve Mariucci was a no-brainer. And you can't really fault Millen for replacing de-facto office manager Kevin Warren with Tom Lewand and assistant Martin Mayhew. Both are guys who Millen felt were more than ready for more responsibility.
But then the other shoe dropped.
Millen decided rather than name a replacement for vice-president of player personnel Bill Tobin, he would simply take the job over himself. "How do you want me to answer that?" Millen told the Detroit Free Press. "I'm going to jump over there a lot more, yeah."
Really, what else was there left for Millen to do? Steve Mariucci is going to make the calls on the Lions roster and working in concert with Sheldon White, Detroit director of pro-personnel, they'll likely make the calls on the free agency market too. Lewand will handle the major details on contracts with Mayhew handling the lesser details.
So Millen will now move his 'expertise' to the matter of player personnel. Along with the Lions scouting staff of Scott McEwan and Russ Bollinger, he will run the Lions war room (with input from Mariucci) and make all the picks, this time without the interference of that pesky Bill Tobin. "It's all ready to go," Bolinger told the Associated Press. "All he has to do is pick `em. We're right where we were (in the evaluation process) last year and the year before that.
All he has to do is pick 'em, eh?
I've got some reservation here.
Look, Bill Tobin had an eye for this sort of thing. His two drafts did a great job of stocking the Lions with talent. While it's not hard to look at the #2 pick overall in the draft and say, "I'll take Charles Rogers," how about in the 3rd, 4th, 5th rounds and beyond? Is that guy that's available in the 3rd round really worth trading up for? How do you know? Especially if you haven't scouted this college talent and seen it for yourself up close and personal? Even a week at the Senior Bowl isn't going to give you a good overall picture.
Tobin mined the late rounds for talent.
Jeff Backus (1st) and Dominic Raiola (3rd) are both starters, Kalimba Edwards (2nd) appears to be penciled in as a started next season. Shaun Rogers (2nd) is a solid defensive tackle, Sixth-rounder Jason Glenn is on the New York Jets roster after being cut by Millen. Scotty Anderson (5th) contributed and even seventh rounders Matt Murphy and Victor Rogers made the team (another 7th rounder Luke Staley is expected to be a factor after coming off knee surgery). Sixth-round pick Chris Cash has been a steal and 3rd rounder Andre Goodman is progressing steadily. Joey Harrington (1st) is the quarterback of the future.
In fact, every one of the fifteen players Tobin selected in his two years with the Lions is in the NFL. That's an eye for talent. Judging by Millen's job dealing with free-agent evaluation over the past two seasons, this appears to be a dicey move at best.
Still, with the draft just two months away, Millen may have had no choice but to name himself personnel director for this season. No team was going to allow someone who had input into their draft board to move to another team. Millen inquired about the Rams' Charley Armey, but St. Louis wanted compensation. Tim Ruskell of the Bucs, Mark Hatley of the Packers, and Tom Modrak of the Bills were all thought to be candidates who wouldn't be available until after April's draft.
But even as a temporary move, the stakes are high for Millen. Detroit needs as much out of the draft as possible. Teams all over the league will be looking to see how well Millen does. The best thing Matt could do is run the board for the first three rounds and then leave the war room to the experts. He'll likely be well informed on the top prospects in the draft and will want to wheel and deal to get as many solid players as he can.
After that, Millen should just sit there and leave the board to the experts, McEwan and Bollinger and let them tell him what to do from that point forward. Detroit can't afford another Aaron Gibson or Bryant Westbrook first round pick.