What next for Matt Millen?

His tenure with the Lions was a disaster, but disaster would be an improvement for his old team, the Raiders.

Published September 24, 2008 7:05PM (EDT)

Jay Glaser of FoxSports.com is reporting that the Detroit Lions have fired general manager Matt Millen, bringing to an end one of the most spectacularly futile management tenures in modern NFL history. Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports confirmation from Millen's wife that he's out.

It's a rare bright moment for Lions fans.

The reported move comes two days after Lions vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. told reporters he already would have fired Millen if he'd had the authority to do so. That authority rests with Junior's dad, Bill Ford Sr., who bought the team in November 1963 and has presided over 28 losing records in the 45 full seasons he's owned the team.

The Lions had been winners in nine of the 13 seasons before Ford Sr. took ownership, champions in three of them. Under his stewardship, the Lions have never even played for a championship. They've been as far as a conference title game only once, in 1991, when they did something they'd never done under Ford before and haven't done since. They won a playoff game.

That's the kind of executive skill that led to this son of Edsel Ford and grandson of Henry Ford being invited not to run the Ford Motor Company. Junior's comments Monday showed once again that Ford's Lions, off to an 0-3 start, are engineered to last.


It really says something about Millen's skills as a football executive that amid this remarkable stretch of incompetence, his tenure stands out as a dark period. Millen was hired in 2001 and the Lions went 31-81 over his seven full seasons, 31-84 including this year's start. The high point was last year, when they built up a 6-2 record against a soft schedule, then went 1-7 in the second half against a brutal one. The 7-9 finish will stand as the only time the Lions avoided double-figure losses under Millen.

He will be best remembered for doggedly pursuing the strategy of drafting wide receivers with high first-round picks. That's a dubious plan when tried once. It's downright nuts to follow it every year.

Millen was a pretty entertaining TV analyst before hiring on with the Lions and a move back to the booth next year or sooner wouldn't be surprising. But here's a prediction: Millen becomes the next general manager of the only NFL team more dysfunctional than the Lions, the team he played for, the Oakland Raiders.

Actually, that's not a prediction. That's wishful thinking by a Raiders fan, which tells you everything you need to know about what it's like to be a Raiders fan. If Millen could sign on and deliver 31 wins over the next seven years, that'd beat my expectations by about a third. In the five full seasons since the Raiders played in the Super Bowl, while the Lions were blundering their way to 26 victories, the Raiders won 19 games.

Come on home, Matt. Which wide receiver you want to draft first?

By King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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