Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Road Poorly Traveled......So Far

An old Chinese saying is, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

I can think of at least two instances in Detroit Lions history for which you could amend that to read, "A journey poorly travelled begins with a single misstep."

Call me crazy, but I have always maintained that if Andre Ware, draft bust extraordinaire, had not held out and missed all of training camp in 1990, he would not have failed as miserably as he did. He may not have been Joe Montana, but his career would have at least had a fighting chance if he was signed, sealed and delivered to training camp on time in July 1990. Of course, we'll never know.

If Matt Millen hadn't become smitten with Marty Mornhinweg over dinner and a late night film session in January 2001, his track record in Detroit would probably be a whole lot better.

Millen is 20-55 since taking over the Lions, but 5-27 of that was with Mornhinweg prowling the sidelines. Marty wasn't ready to be a head coach -- he wasn't even a coordinator -- and had Millen been a tad more patient and interviewed other candidates, I doubt he would have hired the "other" MM. And maybe, just maybe, the Lions wouldn't be in the muck they find themselves in currently.

The irony is Millen himself was no more suited to be in the president's chair than Mornhinweg was to be the head coach, but there you have it.

Millen has had to grow into the job, and while that's been ugly to watch at times, I still believe that there's been enough improvement in the level of talent procurement to make a case for why he should be retained, at least for another year or two. The five year extension might have been a little much, I'll grant you that.

Regardless, Matt Millen is still employed by the Lions because of, a) that five-year extension, and b)
Bill Ford must believe that Matt is one good coaching hire away from turning the program around. And, frankly, the old man just might be right.

Millen has, most likely, one more shot at hiring a head coach, so he'd better make it a good one. But, really, how many of us thought the Steve Mariucci hire would go as south as it did, and so quickly?

But here's the caveat for Millen: we're not paid to do due diligence and research on candidates -- he is. So while many of us may have thought, just based on his won/lost record, that Steve Mariucci was "the guy," it was incumbent upon Millen to, again, take his time and make sure that the nice winning percentage Mooch had in Frisco wasn't papered. Maybe if Millen had been more deliberate, talking to various people around the league -- personnel directors, players, coaches, and even broadcasters (gasp!) -- he might have discovered that Mooch had some warts that weren't going to go away simply because of a five year, $25 million contract.

Well, he didn't, obviously, and now he is looking at an 0-2 count with Nolan Ryan on the mound.

Even football men can strike out, you know.

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