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Friday, November 28, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 12/11/2005

Give new Lions coach authority

Life isn't fair. The Detroit Lions lose big on the football field, but continue to rake in the profits.

The Lions have performed so poorly that if president and CEO Matt Millen were a politician, he'd be impeached.

Instead, Millen, gaudy title and all, received a five-year contract extension. Go figure.

No, life isn't fair. Rich owners like William Clay Ford get richer, and bad football teams like the Lions stay the course.

Evidently, it takes a lot to embarrass Ford when it comes to his Lions.

He really knows how to take a joke.

But why?

Does Millen have some top-secret information that Ford wishes to remain private? It couldn't possibly be any worse than what has become of his football team.

Somehow, Millen, despite his 20-56 record entering tonight's game at Green Bay, peacock strut and empty boasts, remains a Lions employee.

But for how long?

How long before Ford tires of wearing egg on his face?

How long before even Ford, the NFL's most patient owner, finally sees the light and delivers Millen a long overdue pink slip?

Ford has already waited too long.

But there's one thing about reaching rock bottom and becoming a national laughingstock, like the Lions.

There's plenty of room for improvement.

Even Ford would likely lose his manners - along with that famous patience - if the Lions finished 0-5 under interim coach Dick Jauron after going 4-7 under Steve Mariucci.

Under those circumstances, Ford would struggle to come up with a single legitimate reason to retain Millen and allow him to hire yet another coach and usher in yet another new era - the third such era under Millen.

Imagine the potential pitfalls confronting the Lions in their upcoming coaching search led by Millen.

Just about any coach worth hiring - even someone from the college ranks, like USC's Pete Carroll - will insist upon having total authority on all personnel decisions.

They'd look at what happened to Mariucci. A winning coach before joining the Lions, he lost his magic touch while directing a Millen-run operation.

Most coaches will give Mariucci the benefit of the doubt over Millen, a former NFL player and popular TV announcer who landed the Lions post despite lacking any front-office experience.

That said, the top candidates for the Lions coaching vacancy will probably insist on having veto power on all draft picks, trades and free-agent signings.

Where would that leave Millen, a Ford favorite?

As a figurehead, and hopefully nothing more.

Millen needed someone to step in and prevent him from stocking the offensive-line deficient Lions with wide receivers in the first round of the last three drafts.

No one did, because Millen is in charge.

If Millen is to remain with the Lions, if Ford can't bring himself to fire his golden boy, let Millen keep his job along with the gaudy title but without the autonomy that has defined the first five miserable years of his tenure.

Let the new coach build the Lions in his own image.

It's the least Ford can do, considering how little Millen has done.



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