Former NFL linebacker Matt Millen is probably best-known for his tenure as the Detroit Lions' president and CEO from 2001 through 2008, when he was the man primarily responsible for the team's 31-97 record -- the worst won-loss total over such a time in the modern NFL. Millen's catastrophic incompetence as a personnel executive masked his previous career as a blowhard in the booth; he was actually a somewhat well-regarded color analyst in the 1990s, back when every network wanted their own version of John Madden and didn't stop to see whether the clones could match Madden's football acumen. "Big guys who yell a lot" generally sufficed as a general job description.
Freed from the constraints of terrible drafts and awful free-agency pickups, Millen was once again ready for the booth, and several networks were interested. He currently provides analysis for the "Monday Night Football" pregame show and calls college games for ABC. But it is his time with the NFL Network's "Thursday Night Football" package that's getting Millen the most notice these days, and this ramped up when the network matched Millen with Joe Theismann and Bob Papa for the 2010 season.
Papa is known as a pro's pro. Theismann's 100 mph shtick rubs a lot of people the wrong way, but he seems to be seen as a day at the beach compared to the Millen experience. In Thursday's Chicago Bears-Miami Dolphins game, Millen brought out all of his chestnuts -- blowing player names, misidentifying what was actually happening on the field, stepping on the lines of everyone else in the booth -- and throwing in a couple new ones for good measure. Millen wouldn't shut up about his alma mater Penn State for a time, and he called Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli "one of the best coaches I've been around." Marinelli was Detroit's head coach in 2008, when the Lions had the worst single season in NFL history -- the only team ever to finish a season with an 0-16 record.
Noted TV critic Norman Chad recently called the Millen-Theismann combo "a social experiment of potentially apocalyptic consequences," and it seems as if the viewers agree. Millen's disconnect from reality brought forth a Twitter hatefest the likes of which this writer has never seen -- not even during a Tim McCarver World Series broadcast! The comments were in the four figures, literally none of them were positive, and the NFL Network should pay attention; it seems that its brand could be seriously diluted if it doesn't do something about this.
After the jump, just a few of the better comments:
@sportsguy33 As a Lions fan, I could live with seeing Matt Millen on my screen, as long as he had an 0-16 placard hanging from his neck.
If I'm Bob Papa, I mention that the score is 0 to 16 as often as possible until Millen snaps.
Ok new plan for nxt week, where can I find game audio on Sirius so I won't have to listen to Theisman and Millen?
Forget this. I've got the Girl Talk album. I don't need Theismann and Millen in my life.
Yikes -- it just goes on and on. Search "Millen" on Twitter this morning, and the infinite bashing will blow you away. This isn't about going after Matt Millen per se; it would seem that pretty much everyone not running a sports programming department understands that this guy will never have credibility in the booth after what he did as a GM. Think of it more as an intervention. The NFL Network eventually realized its mistake with Bryant Gumbel, so there is a precedent here.
Hey, NFL Network -- we're just trying to help. Make your games watchable again!