The Worst Lions Decision: How Detroit Arrived at the Verge of 0-16

Joshua LobdellCorrespondent IDecember 26, 2008

The question becomes, how does a team go 0-15 and place themselves on the verge of being the first 0-16 team in NFL history? It does not happen overnight, and it cannot possibly be blamed on a single move, player, signing or draft pick. In the end, it comes about through a decade of rather poor decision made by the powers that be. Here is a quick look at how the Lions built an 0-16 dynasty.

The Matt Millen regime made 62 draft picks over the past seven NFL drafts. For the most part those picks are the reason the team is so devoid of talent, but one pick in particular was the worst of the bunch. That pick, WR Mike Williams out of USC, was the beginning of the 0-for dynasty.

For those who do not remember, Mike Williams, along with Maurice Clarett, decided to challenge the NFL rule that a player must be three years removed from his High School graduation to be eligible for the draft. This led to a year off for Williams. For whatever reason, in the next draft Millen decided to select Williams with the 10th overall pick.

Since Williams is no longer in the NFL, we can take a look at his career stats: 44 receptions for 539 yards and two touchdowns. This was compiled over four seasons with three different teams.

Now many will say that the actual hiring of Millen was the choice that led to this low point. I would vehemently disagree. The actual hiring of Millen was a chance the ownership took to improve the team. For the most part that is an okay thing to do. The problem comes in when they extended Millen’s contract.

His extension took effect at the beginning of the 2006 season. By that point his record was 19-45 as the man in charge of the Lions' Football operations. He had already hired two coaches, Marty Mornhinweg and Steve Mariucci, and the ownership should have let him go as well. It was obvious that Millen was in a job over his head.

It was also obvious at this point that former No. 2 overall pick QB Joey Harrington wasn’t the answer. It was also becoming apparent that Millen had squandered five first round draft picks. Sure, Harrington and Williams were busts, but so were Kevin Jones and Charles Rogers. Only the fate of Roy Williams was left to be decided.

In fact, of the seven drafts where the Lions let Millen make their picks, his first is arguably his most successful. Granted, success on a team this bad is highly arbitrary, but in his first draft Millen picked offensive linemen Jeff Backus and Dominic Raiola, both of who still start for this team. He was also able to trade the third and fourth round picks to New England for their second rounder, which was used to take defensive tackle Shaun Rogers.

Rogers was a player that never lived up to his potential. That alone cannot be Millen’s fault, but after the first four full seasons, the ownership should have been wise to the fact that this was a job Millen could not accomplish. That decision to extend him is why the Lions are where they are.