Before he became the worst general manager in this history of professional sports and a perfectly execrable football analyst, Matt Millen was actually a pretty decent NFL linebacker. Quite good, actually -- Millen was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the second round of the 1980 NFL draft, and won Super Bowls with three different teams -- the Raiders, the San Francisco 49ers and the Washington Redskins. Millen was a high-effort guy with a pinpoint and violent approach to tackling, and if he had stopped right there, he wouldn't be the running joke he is today. But, we have what we have.
And as a result of what we have, when the only man to put together a team bad enough to go 0-16 in a single NFL season makes assertive statements, most people want to take a step back and consider the source.
Two days after the New York Giants beat the daylights out of the 49ers last Sunday by a score of 26-3, Millen went on Bay Area station 95.7 The Game and said that San Francisco linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman played the worst they ever had. Those who know of Millen's dumpster-fire reputation as a personnel guy would probably take it as a compliment that he was less than impressed with their efforts, but as Willis didn't seem to know who Millen was, there wasn't the same effect.
"Oh man ... it's like what it is with anything," Willis said Tuesday on the same station after he was told about Millen's negative take."Everybody is on your bandwagon when you are playing good. Everybody has everything positive to say and when you don't do well, they got everything critical to say. For us, we are going to continue to do the things we need to do and that's play football. Every game is not going to be a perfect game. Every game is not going to be your best game. It's business.
"At some point in time you gotta come down and at some point in time you got nowhere to go but up, and [Sunday] just wasn't a good day for us across the board, but that's part of the game.
"And whoever this Matt Millen guy is, I'd like to ask him if he could do what we do every day and do what we do for 16 games a year and see if he can hold up every game. I doubt he would. I doubt he would be able to consistently play at a high level as Bowman and I do. I really don't care about what this guy has to say. "
Well, while bashing Matt Millen is a fun, productive, and credible exercise under most conditions, we'd have to regrettably give the edge to Millen on this one. Patrick Willis might be the best inside linebacker in the game today, and NaVorro Bowman is criminally underrated, but if there's one thing Millen actually does know about (believe it or not), it's how linebackers can affect a game.
Had Willis known who Millen was, it would have been easy to pop off with something more like, "I'm just glad he didn't draft me -- I must have been too good." Since Willis didn't have that opportunity, we'll do it for him, and we'll assume that when Willis does discover Millen's history, he'll get a pretty good laugh out of the whole thing.