Matt Millen Merits Mic Despite Motown Mess

Howard BurnsCorrespondent IJanuary 22, 2009

What's all the fuss about Matt Millen being added to the cast of NBC's five-hour Super Bowl XLIII pregame show?

Yeah, he was a lousy personnel manager with the Detroit Lions. Really lousy. Yeah, his teams won only 31 of 128 games and he was the architect of the NFL's first 0-16 team. But should that negate the eight good years he put in as an NFL analyst for Fox?

After his appearance Jan. 3 during the wild-card playoffs on NBC's Football Night in America, the New York Daily News' Bob Raissman wrote about the negative buzz Millen's TV comeback created in some circles.

Raissman himself opined Millen is "being used" by NBC to generate publicity for its telecast of the Feb. 1 extravaganza in Tampa, calling him "just a hired mouth in a cameo role." He went on to say, "There’s a good chance this all will backfire on NBC. Out-of-control buzz can be detrimental to a network."

Whoa! Millen may have failed miserably with the Lions, but let's also remember the guy who was the engaging commentator years back when paired with Dick Stockton as Fox's No. 2 NFL announcing team. Heck, the guy knows something about football. He won four Super Bowl rings during an 11-year playing career for crying out loud.

ESPN hiring Rush Limbaugh for its pregame show—now that was a stunt. Millen's got a track record in the NFL, a pretty good one at that. Why not, then, allow for a little redemption for the old linebacker?

All of this hullabaloo brings to mind another pundit who also happens to draw a paycheck from NBC. Mike Milbury's tenure as general manager of the NHL's New York Islanders could only be described as disastrous considering all of the fine young talent he let get away and the team's overall lack of success.

Prior to taking the Islanders' reins, Milbury was a solid hockey commentator for ESPN. Today, he's on the air almost as much as Montel Williams hawking those Barack Obama coins.

Milbury appears on NBC's national telecasts, CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, and NESN's coverage of the Boston Bruins, and for hockey fans it's all good. He's insightful and unabashed — just what you want in an analyst.

Despite the stumble in Detroit, Millen's likely to have at least a few worthwhile tidbits to offer viewers on Super Sunday. Besides, with five seemingly interminable hours of airtime to fill before the game, there appears to be more than enough face time to go around.