April 20, 2009
As Tony Kornheiser's continued presence on Monday Night Football so clearly demonstrates, ESPN absolutely does not care if you like or dislike the people they employ to analyze professional football.
So go ahead, Lions fans. Complain that franchise-wrecker Matt Millen's landed another high profile job as a football analyst, this time at ESPN. They won't mind a bit.
In fact, they've put together a brilliant little strategy to deflect potential criticism for hiring Millen: They've given him Emmitt Smith's old job on the Monday Night Football set. So if anyone complains, they can always just say, "Fine, you want Emmitt back?" And that should quiet people down.
Predictably, NBC took a bit of a beating when they hired Millen to do a little Super Bowl work for them early this year. Millen soldiered through it, though, and did what I thought was some decent work. I expect he'll do the same in his new studio gig at ESPN.
I still say it would make more sense for Millen to work as a game analyst, though, as opposed to sitting in a studio. In the game booth, he could focus on X's and O's, and what's happening in the game, where his credibility remains intact. The guy was a great football player. Not even years of strangling the life out of the Lions organization can wash that away.
But In the studio, it's often more about the bigger picture, including things like analyzing personnel and draft picks, and Millen's just never going to get away from his well-earned reputation as an unspeakably, horrifyingly bad general manager. To me, putting him in the studio doesn't play to his strengths, or, perhaps more accurately, minimize his gigantic weakness.
I wonder about something else, too. He wasn't at NBC for very long, and the atmosphere in the studio there seemed pretty rigid and humorless. ESPN's Monday Night Football crew is a little different, though. They're no Charles and Kenny on TNT, but still, they'll clown each other a little bit. Will Millen's history with the Lions be off-limits for jokes? Who'll take the first jab?
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