At long last, it’s over. Arguably the most painful era in professional sports has finally come to an end. Longtime President and CEO of the Detroit Lions, Matt Millen, was finally relieved of his duties after eight awful years at the helm. Since 2001, no NFL team had lost more than 74 games. Millen’s Lions lost 84.
The tipping point might have been public comments made by the owner’s son. Lions vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. said Millen should leave the team, and the Ford Motor Co. executive chairman said if he had the authority, he would make moves.
“I think the fans deserve better,” Bill Ford told reporters on Monday. “And if it were in my authority, which it’s not, I’d make some significant changes.”
It doesn’t matter that the Lions are 0-3 and would probably be hard-pressed to stop a Pee-Wee football team. What matters is they’ve started digging themselves out of the hole they dug upon hiring MIllen back in ’01. This franchise has never been a proud one. But it also hasn’t always been the league’s laughingstock. Now, with Millen gone, the Lions can move forward and regain their rightful spot among the league’s most mediocre and irrelevant teams.
Credit the son of Lions owner William Clay Ford for finally speaking up about the mess earlier in the week. On Monday, Bill Ford Jr. said that he would fire Millen if he had the authority to do so. Luckily for Bill, daddy was listening. But what now for the LOLions? Respectability isn’t going to come quickly, but it could come a lot sooner if the Lions hire a legitimate GM to take Millen’s job. Isiah Thomas, anybody?
Granted, this is going to take time. Turning around a culture of losing takes time. But let’s take a look at last year’s laughingstock, the Miami Dolphins. They got their ass kicked in ’07, made a splash with Bill Parcells and are now well on their way to getting back to respectability. I can think of one coach who has made a habit of winning in blue-collar, shithole industrial cities.