We're nearing the end of Day 1: Life After Millen, and by most accounts, it's been a joyous occasion. Now begins the arduous process of rebuilding the Lions, no easy task given what hell Matt Millen hath wrought on this franchise in just eight years.
During tonight's NFL Total Access, Rich Eisen got current NFL Network analyst and former Lions head coach Steve Mariucci on the horn to talk about what it meant to work for the worst general manager in the history of sports. (Click Millen's handsome mug for the moving pictures.)
Some highlights after the jump.
When asked if Millen forced him to start Joey Harrington, Mariucci offered this:
[Millen] wanted to see if we could make [Harrington] into a legitimate starting quarterback -- a winning quarterback -- and I was willing to do that early. As time went on, you know, a young quarterback with a young team -- that's not a good recipe for success.Hardly shocking given how things played out, but it's good to have closure, I guess.
So, we weren't quite sure that he was going to be the guy, Rich. In fact, we suggested, you know, trading with somebody else for other veteran quarterbacks because we gradually believed that Joey would be better suited to be a backup for a while and watch somebody else do it.
So Matt wasn't willing to spend more money on the quarterback position. Matt insisted that we try to develop Joey and build up other parts of the team while we were trying to develop his skills, but it wasn't going to happen.
Mariucci also gave his thoughts on Millen taking wideouts Charles Rogers and Mike Williams with top-10 picks even though, as Eisen suggested, he was against it:
Philosophically, when you build a team -- and, you know, he took the team apart -- they were 9-7 when Matt took over, they were a decent football team and he tried to take it apart and get it to the next level. So there's a lot of rebuilding that needs to be done. With that said, to spend four early draft picks on one position is philosophically difficult to do because you are maybe loading up one position, which two out of the four worked out. Calvin Johnson is going to be a good player and so is Roy [Williams].Eisen finally asked Mariucci about Millen's qualifications, which is sorta like Bobby Petrino asking Arthur Blank for a letter of recommendation. If you're too lazy to sit through five minutes of video (but, oddly, not too lazy to read), PFT has the transcript.
But Mike Williams was not somebody we collectively wanted to draft. That came as quite a surprise on draft day that we ended up drafting him when there were so many other good players on the board. In the meantime, you neglect your defense and some other areas of need...
But [Millen] was trying to put in a supporting cast for Joey, to develop Joey's ability to succeed and he did it with the receiver position
PFT's Mike Florio suggests that perhaps Mariucci "is trying in a roundabout way to blame his poor won-loss record on Millen" given his comments that Millen was in way (way, way, WAY) over his head from the start.
Eh, that seems like a pretty big stretch -- Mariucci was fired in 2005; it's been almost three years and he hasn't made a peep about Millen's blinding incompetence until today, after William Clay Ford canned him. I'd hardly classify that as Mariucci looking to pass the buck, and at this point, you'd think he'd want to never bring it up in the hopes that we'd just all forget about it.
If anything, you could argue that Mariucci actually hurt his chances of getting another NFL gig anytime soon by reminding us how bad those Lions teams really were.