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 Millen: Saint or Snake-Oil Salesman? 
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Bubbles the Lion
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Post Millen: Saint or Snake-Oil Salesman?
DREW SHARP: Lions will shop, then they'll drop

BY DREW SHARP, FREE PRESS COLUMNIST

Who wouldn't want the Lions' No. 2 quarterback job?

You're canonized -- the patron saint of the can't-be-any-worse.

It's the best job in Detroit. Downtown parades are held in your honor immediately upon your arrival. You become the next in the long, long, l-o-n-g line of rightful heirs to the Bobby Layne legacy. You're great only because nobody has yet had the opportunity to scream that you stink.

The only problem with the job is that paradise is short-lived. You're never the backup for long in this town. As the sun rises every morning, so, too, will every Lions starting quarterback eventually falter. So basically Matt Millen and Steve Mariucci are courting the guy who will become their starting quarterback at some point next season.

Kurt Warner, who finally will be released by the New York Giants today, represents the least of multiple evils among the free agents available. He might be a faint facsimile of his Super Bowl-winning, two-time MVP self, but he still has forgotten more about clutch quarterbacking than the other candidates can ever hope to remember.

The start of the free-agent shopping season today means everyone now eagerly awaits the puff of white smoke emanating from the Allen Park asylum, a symbol that the Lions have come to terms with the next anointed panacea.

This is but further evidence of the NFL's marketing genius, turning this annual shopping spree into one of winter's biggest events. Handle this right, and even the most desperate can reap the fruits of parity.

But for all the big signing bonuses in the next few weeks, free agency is no more the answer to success in the NFL than it is in major league baseball.

Most of the recent Lions discussions have centered on quarterback and whether it will be Warner or Jeff Garcia or maybe even Brad Johnson. But the quarterback search overshadows the Lions' most pressing concern -- the reconstruction of the offensive line.

If the new No. 2 quarterback becomes the new No. 1, then the Lions had better make sure they have a sturdy offensive line to keep him upright.

Is this organization finally headed in the right direction? Look no further than the right side of the offensive line for the answer.

Good teams develop talent. Good teams steadily nurture mid- to late-round draft choices into effective starters. Good teams aren't fazed at the prospect of losing quality in the free-agent market. If the Lions finally have their act together, then Kelly Butler or Victor Rogers will emerge as more than a comparable replacement for Stockar McDougle at right tackle. Butler was a sixth-round pick, Rogers a seventh-rounder.

McDougle, a first-round selection, is the last vestige of the Bobby Ross era. He never blossomed into the star most projected, but he nonetheless is a good, reliable football player. But the free agent has likely priced himself out of returning to the Lions.

Butler and Rogers' development is more of a statement about the Millen era than whether Joey Harrington becomes the trusted figure calling the signals.

Go down the list of perennial playoff teams, and there's one attribute common to all, a steady flow of mid- to late-round draft choices moving up the depth charts and eventually into the starting lineup. It might be a guard one year, a linebacker the next. But the successful organizations don't rely exclusively on the early rounds of the draft and overpaying in the free-agent market.

Defensive end James Hall is the only starter on either side of the ball who was neither drafted in the first three rounds nor signed from another team through free agency. The Lions signed Hall as an undrafted free agent after he came out of Michigan in 2000.

Failure to develop at least a few projects condemns a team to perpetual rebuilding. Developing players also reduces the margin for error, particularly when targeting free agents.

The Lions committed more than $40 million in signing safety Brock Marion and cornerback Fernando Bryant last year, yet this year two of the team's biggest needs are a more punishing presence at safety and more speed at cornerback.

The Lions also need a guard, a pass rusher, a tight end and another playmaking wide receiver. And, yes, they need a quarterback to push Harrington if not actually pass him. Let's face it. Millen hasn't fared terribly well in free agency. For every Damien Woody success, you can come up with multiple disasters like Bill Schroeder and Tai Streets.

When you don't develop any of your lower draft picks, you always wind up with more holes than options to fill them. And that usually makes you a desperate shopper come the start of March. (End)

I am not the biggest fan of Drew Sharp, but this is right on the money. This has to be a make or break year for Millen. If the Lion finish less than 9-7, his rectum is fired--no excuses.


March 5th, 2005, 9:56 pm
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After his first year with signings like Hakim and Schroeder, running vets like Morton out of town and crazy statements, I was ready to get rid of Millen. Since then, he has won me over a bit with some decent FA signings like Bly and more importantly his performance in the draft.

Millen has shown he is not afraid to take risks in the draft. His trade with the Browns last year was excellent. I think all the guys taken last year have a chance to contribute with the Lions. I've also seen Matt grab guys like S. Rogers and B. Bailey in the second and third rounds. He has maximized value in those rounds.

As for later round picks, James Davis, Holt, etc... I think Sharp is being a bit simplistic.

The talent level on the team has increased dramatically the past few years. I'm not sure you drop a GM who assembles a team with 10-win talent if the coach/players don't get it done on Sundays. Then again, he hand selected the coach and most of the players so perhaps you do! :lol:


March 5th, 2005, 10:36 pm
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First of all Drew Sharp is one of the biggest idiots in Detroit. This guy knows absolutely nothing. Want proof? He said in his article that Stockar McDougle was 'reliable'. OMG! He was the most inconsistent lineman the Lions have had the past two years. And I really don't consider the Tai Streets signing last year a disaster. Did he play to expectations? No. Is that Millens fault? No. Millen had the good sense to limit the deal to only one year, as he did with Stephen Alexander. THAT'S being a smart GM. Give the player a chance, but don't give him an umbilical cord. Brock Marion HAD to be signed, or this team was going to have bigger problems than what they did. Millen has had his faults and made some questionable decisions. Personally I was never a big fan of Fernando Bryants and I think the Lions did overpay. But what team doesn't overpay for a free agent corner? Everyone thought Bly was a poor signing for the money, and now he seems like a downright steal.
When it comes down to it, coaches have to coach, players have to make plays. You can't blame the General Manager for receivers dropping balls, linemen missing blocks, kickers missing field goals and coaches making bad playcalls. Millen has had excellent drafts, has found value in middle rounds, and has upgraded the talent on this team while making the average age on the roster younger since Bobby Ross left town. It can't be done in one year folks, it takes time.

Please don't listen to what Drew Sharp says. He's a moron........and that's an insult to morons.

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March 6th, 2005, 1:07 am
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Post Re: Millen: Saint or Snake-Oil Salesman?
Fekko wrote:
I am not the biggest fan of Drew Sharp, but this is right on the money. This has to be a make or break year for Millen. If the Lion finish less than 9-7, his rectum is fired--no excuses.


Well, there still could be excuses... Harrington goes down, Jones goes down, etc....

I thought this was a poorly written article. I thought about it, sure, we don't have many 7th rounders that pan out, but what about our linebackers? James Davis and Alex Lewis are both 5th round picks, and could start on half of the teams in the league! We don't know if Butler is any good or not, he had limited time in the pre-season and could have improved with a season of practice. Victor Rogers wasn't terrible, he could even take over for Backus next season (did I just say that, hey, why not?)

Anyways... the Lions really haven't been poor with their late round picks. Sure, we don't have a Tom Brady, or Priest Holmes... but we have got players that have been solid contributors in the later rounds.


March 6th, 2005, 2:10 am
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Matt Millen's drafts

Round 1- Jeff Backus (18), Joey Harrington (3), Charles Rogers (2), Roy Williams (7), Kevin Jones (30)

Round 2- Dominic Raiola (50), Shaun Rogers (61), Kalimba Edwards (35), Boss Bailey (34), Teddy Lehman (37)

Round 3- Andre Goodman (68), Corey Redding (66), Keith Smith (73)

Round 4- Jonathan Taylor DE Montana St (134), Artose Pinner (99)

Round 5- Scotty Anderson (148), Mike McMahon (149), John Owens (138), Terrence Holt (137), James Davis (144), Alex Lewis (140)

Round 6- Jason Glenn (173), Chris Cash (175), David Kircus (175), Kelly Butler (172)

Round 7- Luke Staley, Matt Murphy, Victor Rogers, Ben Johnson, Blue Adams, Travis Anglin.


March 6th, 2005, 8:47 am
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50% of those playe contribute almost nothing to the team. 30 to 40% will not even be with the team. Look at Rueben Droughns or James Mungro they weren't good enough to be on Matt's team. When you can't sign your own players it says something about your team.


March 6th, 2005, 10:12 pm
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jomo269 wrote:
50% of those playe contribute almost nothing to the team. 30 to 40% will not even be with the team.


Sorry, but you are very, very wrong. Out of 30 picks, 20 that are on the team are on that list. Most of them contribute in one way or another. How many teams out there get value and production from their drafts like that? Answer: few, if any. Maybe his drafts haven't equated into a playoff team, but he's only had three years of drafts. The worst pick out of all those was Jonathon Taylor in the fourth round. The guy never accomplished anything. He was a huge reach. But that was in Millens first year as a GM.
If you want to criticize Millen for things, that's fine. I am certainly not his biggest fan, but I'm not going to knock him for doing something right. And neither should anyone else. His drafts the past two years have received high praise for very good reason, because they were among the best, if not the best, those two years.
As for not signing your own players, the Lions have re-signed more players than what they've lost over those years. And I don't see the re-signing of Shaun Rogers being such a small thing.

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March 6th, 2005, 10:45 pm
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Consider this:

Last year, two other players that Matt Millen was desperately trying to bring in were Larry Allen Guard from Dallas and Donovin Darius Strong Safety from Jacksonville.

In reviewing the kind of seasons they had, they both basically had career seasons, Allen anchoring the line as a lynchpin, and DD erasing any doubt about his coverage skills picking off a career high 5 interceptions.

Had he landed them, it's quite possible that they could have had their career years in Detroit. It's a tough job to try to find the right situation to bring them in, but the sole fact that he saw something in them and tried to bring them in at least speaks volumes for his scouting ability for current NFL players.

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March 7th, 2005, 3:36 pm
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I agree with karateman that Millen has had some stellar drafts...However, I think he could have done A LOT better in the past couple FAs (outside of re-signing our own players). Some decent signings but paid way too much, Bryant, Marion, etc. They could have gotten similar quality for a cheaper price. He's just kept around the old while trying to build a team around the new (Walkers, Marion, Bryant). We need new blood at these positions and needed them for the past couple years. Also, I think they should have kept Barrett Green.


March 7th, 2005, 3:43 pm
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Our team has gotten better, younger, faster in his tenure. Sure I would love some redos but find me someone that hasn't. Bobby Ross was a trash drafter and terrible with free agents in comparison. You cannot find a GM who has done things perfectly and teams that have done well in the past are now or have been on their face.

I was totally ready for him to be gone but he continually finds talent in the draft and has done well in FA. Look at his draft grants and off season grades by the "experts" and they all approve and his drafts typically rank near the top. At this rate in a couple years we will have an extremely talented, fast, deep team primed to compete and battle tested.

Look at Joe Dumars...he put together a championship team...and also drafted Darko, Mateen Cleaves, and Rodney White. He lost Grant Hill and traded away a guy that was 2nd in scoring in the league for an unknown. Well he picked up Rip and Grant was broken and we got Ben...were those his skills or was it luck? Anyways...I am not a Millen apologists but the guy has done well to recover from a rocky start.

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March 7th, 2005, 4:07 pm
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