Lions fans always seem to be dealing with injuries — whether physical (Stafford et al.) or emotional (The Matt Millen Era). This week, the Lions Congregation tackles both of these issues! Have a question or thought you want to see the pane address? email firstname.lastname@example.org
This week’s panel:
Phil Zaroo of Mlive.com
Steve of Detroit Lions Weblog
Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience
Zac of The Sidelion Report
NetRat of The NetRat Detroit Lions Site
Blades Boyd formerly of The Church of Schwartz
Joshua Pung – DetFan1979 of Roar of the Lions
1. From the Lions congregation mailbox, Michael asks: How can Matt Millen be considered a reputable TV analyst after watching what he did in a “real” situation? I am interested in you take on this.
Phil: You have to understand that knowing and executing are two different things. I know how to lose weight. It’s quite simple: burn more calories than I consume. And I might be able to coach someone into losing weight, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I can do it myself. So while I might say, he’s full of it while I’m watching a game he’s calling, I know that he does know about football, and WAY more than I’ll ever know.
All that said, there are limits to his credibility – even if I’m being open-minded. For example, the first time I heard him on TV after being fired by the Lions was during the Philadelphia-Arizona NFC Championship Game a couple of years ago. At halftime, he said something about having to “build a team from the inside-out.” I almost swallowed my tongue. Y’know, Millen just won’t work out as an NFL draft analyst.
Steve: Matt Millen’s credibility is just about as secure as your average McMansion owner’s mortgage was cogent and viable. However, the fact that Millen is often an excellent and engaging announcer goes without question, Millen does provide the complete blueprint for the systematically dismantling of a NFL franchise, should someone desire to make that their aim as a NFL executive. Making the decision to draft a weak-willed, failure of a NFL Qb. Check. Selecting a pair of wide receivers with HUGE, red warning flags attached to their flimsy character, was also unwise. One of whom, was a rampant drug user with a fragile shoulder and the other being a person who was apparently to in love with Ben and Jerry’s ice cram and reality TV to trouble himself with something as frivolous (for a professional athlete) as physical conditioning.
Sprinkle in completely ignoring upgrading the trenches, flubbing the ever-so-important middle rounds of the draft, and last but not least, becoming fixated with the flavor of the month NFL offensive and defensive schemes, which have become so proliferated that they have become passe. What does that give you? 33-115 as a franchise record, since 2001.
Al: We may not like it one bit, but There was reason why he was immediately snapped up by the ESPN suits in order to go back to his old gig when William Clay Ford became lucid long enough to fire Millen. The franchise killer has always been damn good at breaking down a football game for the average television viewer, and do so in an entertaining way.
Millen was considered the heir apparent to John Madden before the Lions hired him, and deservedly so. He was that impressive in the booth back in those halcyon days of the 90’s. Millen’s on-air glibness is what helped get him the job with the Lions in the first place.
A near decade after the fact, Millen is still quite good at the TV job, no matter how badly things worked out in Detroit.
But Millen’s 8+ years of terror and destruction remain a sore spot for the football faithful in Michigan. Seeing him on TV is like picking a scab, so it never, ever goes away. So you would hope ABC/ESPN would show a little compassion to the football fans of Michigan, and keep Millen’s franchise destroying ass away from the state.
But the more I think about, does it really make a difference? Should Millen being in the booth ruin my enjoyment of what should be a kick ass football game? Why should I even care?
It’s time to move on, at least to the point where I’m not going to let the presence of Matt Millen ruin my football watching weekends. I don’t watch the broadcasters, I watch the game.
Reputable or not, for all I care Millen can show up on my TV 52 weekends a year (though he doesn’t need to, as he took Ford to the proverbial cleaners for tens of millions). I just don’t have to pay attention to him.
And neither do you.
Zac: The easy answer is that he can’t. The more complicated answer is that Matt Millen’s failure in the Lions front office had a lot to do with the lack of a cohesive plan, disorganization, disconnection from the community, and inexperience; all factors outside of what happens on a football field. Millen was a respected broadcaster prior to his tenure in Detroit and so it makes sense he would be coveted in that role again. We don’t have to like it but that’s the way it goes. Don’t put too much stock in it anyway, color analysts tend to add very little to a game. Fans that watch enough football tend to know exactly what those guys will say before they say it.
NetRat: Michael, whenever I see Matt Millen I usually turn the channel… or if it’s a game I really want to watch, I turn off the sound. I absolutely don’t want to hear him nor care what he says. It may be that only Lions fans feel this way but if that is not the case I just don’t understand how the network can put him on the air. If ever there was proof that the “talking heads” don’t know what they are talking about this would be it. Of course, the casual fan doesn’t even know why the Lions stank the last 10 to 12 years… just that they did. Perhaps that is why Millen can still find work, I’m really not sure how else to explain it.
Blades: Mike, this has been the exact same question I’ve been asking for years. Listening to him judge players and ranking players is the biggest joke to me because he clearly demonstrated he doesn’t have the slightest clue what he’s doing. He does know the game of football but he knows nothing about the type of players needed to be successful, he knows nothing about how to rate college kids and he knows nothing about MANAGING a team. I stress the “manage” part because that’s what he doesn’t know what to do. When it comes to the game itself, he’s considered a good analysis because he understand how to play the game and the rules. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean jake squat when you run a team.
DetFan1979: Michael one phrase comes to mind: “He talks a good game.” Put you or I in the GM position of a football team and I’m not sure sure we’d fare a whole lot better than Millen did. Football knowledge as far as making a game in progress entertaining from a knowledgeable standpoint is different than evaluating raw talent, projecting it onto a roster, hiring coaches, scouts, running a draft… you get the idea. Millen was the heir apparent to John Madden when he left to run the Lions — not because of his acumen running actual football operations, but due to his ability to entertain viewers.
Nationally, the Lions were only covered as a peripheral joke at best – usually not at all – unless they were setting futility records over the last decade. Most people nationally are oblivious to how much Millen had to do with the total and utter destruction of the Lions franchise. People in Michigan, however, are keenly aware and rightfully would just like to never see him again if they can help it.
Keeping that in mind, ESPN et al need to do Michigan a favor and keep him off our airwaves. Matt Millen to call Michigan/Michigan State? Really? WTH??
I don’t begrudge him the right to a job, and for college football fans nationally he is still an entertaining broadcaster. However, I’m sure you, me, and about 99+% of Lions fans would rather not have him broadcasting games for Michigan teams — especially important rivalry games.
2. Joshua, DetFan1979: A lot of key players – DeAndre Levy, Matthew Stafford, Nate Burleson, Sammie Hill to name a few were out for the Green Bay game. Others like Peterman and Delmas played hurt. Which player(s) injury/absence impacted the game the most?
Phil: Overall, Matthew Stafford has been the biggest loss, but against the Packers, I think Hill played well enough to cover up for Stafford ’s absence. The important thing the Lions lost by not having Stafford in was a true downfield passing threat. Hill simply doesn’t have the howitzer right arm that Stafford does. Therefore, I’ll have to go with DeAndre Levy. They really missed him from a depth standpoint. Detroit is so thin at that position that it really hurts their flexibility on defense to be without Levy, regardless of it only being his second season. He can run and he can tackle. And that’s a lot more than the Lions’ 7th-string linebackers can do…
Steve: In the Green Bay game, Sammie Lee Hill or DeAndre Levy would have been most crucial for the Lions potential forr success. The Lions played the Packers about as well as conceivably possible for nearly 45 minutes (or so), Had Hill or Levy been active, and up to their normal levels of production, the last Packers drive, which was utilized to salt away the game with a pounding six minute march down the field, may have been stopped, allowing the Lions an opportunity to get the ball back.
As it stood, despite the Lions turnovers and penalties, the game had all of the impact of a cat playing with a dead mouse. Since when push came to shove, as well as the Lions had previously played in the game, in effect, their defense folded up like a cheap tent in that final drive.
Al: Without question, the player the Lions miss most is Matthew Stafford.
With Stafford in the lineup, a few of those red zone trips that ended with picks and field goals are converted into touchdowns, offensive coordinatorScott Linehan doesn’t have to pare down the playbook, the Lions have an actual downfield passing game and Calvin Johnson doesn’t become an afterthought. Most importantly, I sincerely believe the Lions win at least one of the last three games with Stafford under center. He’s that important to both the offense and the franchise.
Sure, the other players mentioned have important roles on the team, but can you consider them true impact players?
Stafford has to touch the ball every play, and has the talent to do remarkable things with it. If that isn’t the definition of an impact player, I don’t know what is…
Zac: DeAndre Levy. The weakest part of the team can’t be without one of it’s most crucial starters without feeling the effects. Look at the way the Packers ran out the clock; do you think Levy could have made a difference there? You bet. The offense played well enough to win. Their shortcoming was not putting up touchdowns, I doubt the missing players would have had too much of an effect on that considering the guys who were in there moved the ball so well as it was.
NetRat: Joshua, who’s injury impacted the game the most? My initial reaction was to say Stafford. Hill is starting to get “into the swing of things” and has improved but he’s still no Stafford… of course, when Stafford gets back, he’ll need to adjust to the speed of the game all over again so he may not start out even as good as Hill is now, who knows. I think the Lions could’ve won with Hill had certain other things gone better. Still, the offense would be better with Burleson (if he plays as advertised which he has not done yet) and Stafford. The Defense would be better with Levy, Delmas, and Hill to rotate in. Special teams would be better if Fluellen would block correctly but I don’t think he’s hurt or taking the place of a hurt player, he just needs to actually improve period. So if I have to pick one injured player to say “impacted the most” I think I will go with Levy. The Lions need to stop the opposing offense when they either have the lead or need one more possession and the linebackers just aren’t getting the job done. The safeties (including CC Brown) keep getting caught out of position because the LBs aren’t where they are supposed to be. In fact, everyone on the defense is trying too hard to compensate for the poor LB play and are getting caught… not sure if Levy would make a world of difference, but if he can do as well as the backup and add to it a couple of 3rd down stops, then the game changes instantly.
Blades: The two obvious answers here are Levy and Stafford but I think that Sammie hill was a huge loss and that was quite evident at the end of the game. Hill is a run stopping machine and watching the Packers run all over the Lions in the last four minutes was painful and Hill would’ve been in for every rep had he been healthy. Besides a couple offside’s on Peterman, I thought he played OK and didn’t kill us so I don’t think he was the main factor. Also, let me get something off my chest. I hated Hill when he started that first game. I thought he was the worst QB I’d ever seen but he’s really grown on me. That Packers game was one of the best performances by a Lions QB in years. I would even rank it higher then Stafford vs the Browns last year cause everyone knew the Browns were brutal but Hill did it against the #2 ranked defence in the NFL. He made great decisions (the two picks weren’t his fault) and he did something that Stafford has yet to figure out. Calvin Johnson is always open!!!! Hill knows that and he’ll throw him the ball in the endzone even if he’s triple covered cause he knows Calvin will make a play. Stafford looks at CJ, sees one guy on him then checks down. It’s a joke.
DetFan1979: This is my own question, but I listed all of those players because I felt like they all had an impact being out. However, DeAndre Levy and Sammie Hill were missed most at the end of the game. Not having Hill meant the Dline was a little more tired. Fluellen does not play at the same level as Hill who is a beast at stopping the run. The Linebackers definitely missed Levy once again in a key situation as he has good instincts, speed, and can tackle. I can’t say the same for the guys slogging along hitting nothing at the end of that game.
Thanks again!! Have a question or thought? Email email@example.com!