After a few games into his seventh season, the Detroit Lions finally fired Matt Millen today after the Lions posted a 31-84 under his reign. As a native Detroiter I have seen it all go down. So how did it go so bad for this distinguished former player and broadcaster? I blame it on a plethora of poor draft, personnel, and coaching decisions. Still unsure, hopefully these will refresh your memory.
#10.) Jeff Backus
In Matt Millen's first draft, the Lions took Backus with the 18th overall pick. Backus was a very talented offensive lineman out of nearby University of Michigan, but he wasn't even the best lineman on his team. That title belonged to Steve Hutchinson, the future All-Pro lineman who was drafted by the Seahawks with the 17th overall pick. Backus has never lived up to expectations with the Lions, but Millen decided to reward his marginal performance with a 6 year $40 million contract extension.
#9.) Bill Schroeder & Az Hakim
After a dismal first season where the Lions posted a 2-14 record, Millen decided to go out in the free agent market and sign some fire power for his offense. So Millen decided to go after what he loves most, wide receivers. He actually managed to sign and overpay two of the top free agent receivers, Az Hakim and Bill Schroeder. Hakim was the #3 WR in the "greatest show on turf" and Schroeder one of Brett Favre's targets. The only problem was that even though the Lions played on turf, they were far from the greatest show on it and Joey Harrington was no Brett Favre. Both players never contributed as much as they did with their former teams and produced the first Matt Millen free agent busts.
#8.) Mike Martz
Millen decided to compliment his hiring of Rod Marinelli by bringing in offensive guru Mike Martz. It seemed like Martz was given all the tools considering all the receivers the Lions drafted, but it just didn't work out for him. Martz decided to bring in a bunch of old players from his St. Louis days like Mike Furrey, Az Hakim, and Shaun McDonald. After only two seasons, Martz was run out of town.
#7.) Fernando Bryant & Damien Woody
Another pair of free agent busts for the Lions were Bryant and Woody, both were young players who had seen success with their former teams. Bryant only played 22 games in his first three seasons with the Lions and didn't have any interceptions in that time. Woody never played like the same Damien Woody that won two Super Bowls playing for the New England Patriots. After four disappointing seasons, Bryant and Woody left Detroit.
Marty Mornhinweg was not even qualified to be the Lions head coach, but that didn't stop Matt Millen from hiring him. Marty said before his first season "The bar is high" and the Lions went on to go 2-14. The next season, he said "The bar is higher" and the Lions responded by going 3-13. Shortly after Millen said Mornhinweg would return for a third season, he fired him and hired Steve Mariucci.
#5.) Joey Harrington
Millen decided to make a splash in his second draft and take Joey Harrington, a QB from Oregon with the third overall pick. Joey never really had much success in Detroit because of coaching, supporting cast, and an overall lack of talent. The fans thought he was a pussy and/or queer, so after about two seasons he never really had a chance in Detroit. After four seasons, Harrington was traded because Mike Martz did not approve of him to run the offense.
#4.) Charles Rogers
Another disappointing draft pick was Charles Rogers, the local product out of Saginaw and Michigan State was taken with the #2 overall pick. The Lions did not hesitate to draft him despite being caught using a masking agent in a drug test. Rogers showed some promise in his rookie year, but broke his collar bone and was done for the season after only four games. The next season, Rogers broke his collarbone again in the first game of the season and once again ended his season. His third and final season with the Lions was a disaster, he was suspended four games for a failed drug test and was inactive for several other games. Rogers was released after three seasons and hasn't played in the NFL since.
#3.) Dre Bly
The first major acquisition of the Steve Mariucci era was Dre Bly, an undersized cornerback who didn't even start for the St. Louis Rams. The Lions also completely overpaid to land Bly, which was fuel to several jokes around the league. Although Bly had some success on the field with the Lions, he never knew when to shut up and was never really able to cover opposing team's receivers. He blamed Joey Harrington for the firing of Steve Mariucci and was a cancer in the locker room. Dre Bly was likely the best free agent pickup Millen ever had, but he just couldn't put up with the losing culture under Millen. He was traded to the Denver Broncos after only three seasons with the Lions.
#2.) Steve Mariucci
The day Matt Millen took the job, his goal was to have Steve Mariucci as head coach. Rumors are that the only reason they hired Marty Mornhinwheg was because Millen couldn't lure Mariucci away from San Francisco and Mariucci said hire my assistant instead. But all rumors aside, Mariucci was terrible as a Lions coach. He compiled a 15-29 record before being canned after an embarassing Thanksgiving loss. Mariucci's west coast offense didn't work and it further derailed Joey Harrington's career. His training camp, practices, etc. were so soft that people referred to the Lions Allen Park practice facility as Allen Park Country Club. Today, Mariucci continues to work for NFL Network and has not been a legitimate candidate for any coaching position since the end of his tenure with the Lion's.
#1.) Mike Williams
Millen decided to follow up the previous first round picks of Charles Rogers and Roy Williams with the selection of Mike Williams with the #10 pick in the 2005 draft. Williams did have great size and was impressive at USC, the only problem was he hadn't played football in over a year. Millen also somehow missed the fact that Williams was slow, overweight, and lazy. Williams was reportedly fined over $100,000 his rookie year for being late to so many team meetings. In two seasons with the Lions, Williams only played in 22 games, recorded 37 catches, and touchdowns. He was traded to the Raiders during the 2007 draft and was later cut by Lane Kiffin who was one of his college coaches.