Skip to content

Matt Millen: “Sorry, Detroit, it didn’t quite work out”

Getty Images

After failing as the Lions’ team president, Matt Millen settled back into a career as a broadcaster and rarely discussed the mistakes he made in Detroit. But on Sunday, he apologized.

Millen, working the Buccaneers-Colts game on FOX, chuckled as he acknowledged that he never should have been trusted with running a franchise.

“A little bit of a tactical error on my part, I had this fleeting dream that I thought maybe I could run a team,” Millen said. “Sorry, Detroit, it didn’t quite work out.”

Millen is obviously right that it didn’t work out: In 2001 he took over a team that had gone 9-7 the year before, promptly turned them into a 2-14 team his first year, and never even reached .500, with his tenure culminating in the NFL’s only 0-16 season ever in Millen’s final year, in 2008.

The Lions are currently looking for a new General Manager, having just fired Martin Mayhew, who was promoted to the job after Millen was finally fired. The good news for the Lions is that whoever they hire, it can’t possibly be worse than Millen.

Permalink 57 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Detroit Lions, Rumor Mill, Top Stories
57 Responses to “Matt Millen: “Sorry, Detroit, it didn’t quite work out””
  1. carloswlassiter says: Dec 1, 2015 7:35 AM

    Yes, Millen’s tenure in Detroit “didn’t quite work out” in that same sense that the Hindenburg had a “minor malfunction”.

  2. yooperman says: Dec 1, 2015 7:36 AM

    Captain Obvious.

  3. jjb0811 says: Dec 1, 2015 7:39 AM

    Millen is in a long line of unsuccessful GM’s, coaches and players that played for the Lions. When you have 50+ years of futility, it’s the owners. The Ford’s should be stripped of the ownership and sold a person who actually wants to win on the field.

  4. dansardo says: Dec 1, 2015 7:39 AM

    The amazing thing wasn’t that he was chosen to run the team (even smart people do stupid things occasionally) the truly amazing thing and what should really terrify lions fans is that he was kept on so long. The ford family has proven yet again with their recent hire that people who they trust are more important to them than people that actually know about football. The lions look a lot better, have the talent to be a lot better, but thinking the team can compete with guys that feel comfortable with guys like Caldwell is fools gold

  5. gojags says: Dec 1, 2015 7:46 AM

    It rarely works promoting inhouse person especially after firing your GM. As a Jags fan, we know how it worked when Shack Harris who the Detroit fans know very well now, was fired and the inhouse guy Gene Smith was promoted as GM.
    It ended up setting the franchise 4 years. Only 3 players remain from Gene Smith era and that includes the Punter who was drafted in the 3rd round before Russell Wilson.

    Its bad idea to promote the guy who worked under a guy (Millen) who was performing an incompetent job to take the job.

  6. glaedrfly says: Dec 1, 2015 7:46 AM

    It’s the Lions. Of course, they could hire someone worse than Millen. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be the Lions.

  7. tonebones says: Dec 1, 2015 7:49 AM

    Millen has always been one of my favorite announcers. He has so much football knowledge and the perfect personality for TV. He played at Penn State under Paterno, the Raiders under Al Davis, the 49ers Walsh-Seifert dynasty of the 80s, and the Joe Gibbs led Redskins dynasty. He has more football knowledge than most, including a lot of GMs. And on top of everything else, he’s a really good guy. A lot of people love to sit on the couches and criticize guys (myself included), but few know football better than Matt Millen.

  8. cwk22 says: Dec 1, 2015 7:59 AM

    It could be worse. You could have the Dolphins GM and owner. In fact, I wish you did!

  9. iammrbinky says: Dec 1, 2015 8:07 AM

    The real problem is the Ford families refusal to completely cleanse the organization of all stench affiliated with past regimes and family friends and start from scratch. They had that opportunity but yet again hired a family friend as president. Odds are the interim, Sheldon White, will have the interim tag lifted and Caldwell will finish out his contract.

    Fans complain about their inept owners (Jerrah, Snyder, Adams) but the Ford Family and Stephen Ross of the Dolphins are hands down the worst owners in the league.

  10. oaklegend says: Dec 1, 2015 8:16 AM

    It’s important to note, he wasn’t being cute or smug about it, he was just asked an uncomfortable question and responded that way.

  11. bigmark67 says: Dec 1, 2015 8:30 AM

    Millen is a good man, wish it would’ve worked out better.

  12. jgedgar70 says: Dec 1, 2015 8:32 AM

    So Millen had a dream about drafting 47 wide receivers in a row? Yeah, it “didn’t quite work out.”

  13. lukedunphysscienceproject says: Dec 1, 2015 8:39 AM

    I don’t blame Millen. He was offered his dream job and he took it. Why shouldn’t he?

  14. blitzinc43 says: Dec 1, 2015 8:45 AM

    As a close and personal friend of Matt I can honestly say that he has learned from his mistakes and would not necessarily be the worst candidate for that Detroit job today.

  15. 10up2down says: Dec 1, 2015 8:47 AM

    Just a little too late Matt! Can’t be any worse than Gene Smith though. He could have been 0-16 in Jacksonville, he just needed a couple more years! Look at his four drafts. All of his small school picks. Not ONE SEC player! At least take a flyer on a kid from the SEC. How do these guys get their jobs?

  16. ariani1985 says: Dec 1, 2015 8:48 AM

    Ted Thompson is closing in on you matt!

  17. mortalkondek says: Dec 1, 2015 8:50 AM

    He looked so smug saying it. Millen begat Mayhew begat Sheldon White. I hope the powers that be do not feel that winning these few meaningless games is a good indication that Mr. White’s services should be retained.

  18. cafetero1075 says: Dec 1, 2015 9:00 AM

    Owner’s fault for keeping him to long. Ross for the Phins is another clueless fool.

  19. teamgale88 says: Dec 1, 2015 9:01 AM

    I still think he was a better president for the lions than he is a broadcaster

  20. shadowman1433 says: Dec 1, 2015 9:02 AM

    Didn’t quite work out!!! No Matt you sucked and the team still has not recovered from your great decision making.

  21. jjackwagon says: Dec 1, 2015 9:07 AM

    Didn’t “quite” work out? No…it was a blazing dumpster fire that burned so brightly it could be seen from the International Space Station.

  22. filmex2000 says: Dec 1, 2015 9:08 AM

    Capt. Smith of the Titanic: “Sorry folks, thought we cleared that iceberg for sure. Guess it didn’t quite work out”.

  23. dickizinya says: Dec 1, 2015 9:12 AM

    It can’t be worse than Millen? Wrong. Ray Farmer might be available at the end of the season.

  24. joetoronto says: Dec 1, 2015 9:13 AM

    It didn’t work out and it’s too bad, God knows Lions fans deserve better.

    Millen’s a good guy, a great commentater and was a terrific LB. He’s just not a good GM though.

  25. firejerry says: Dec 1, 2015 9:15 AM

    Matt sure did not mind taking the money…..the Fords were good to him and he sued them for the last two years of his contract. Terrible GM and greedy.

  26. thestrategyexpert says: Dec 1, 2015 9:15 AM

    No problem Mr. Millen. Our future is bright and thank you for trying. Apologies appreciated.

  27. lgw91s says: Dec 1, 2015 9:28 AM

    Its been 7 years since Millen had the job. To say the team has not recovered, seems like a bit of a stretch. I have no doubt that if Bill Belichick was given the HC and GM job in 2008, the Lions would be an annual contender by now. And you certainly would not have seen those ridiculously inflated contracts that always take a team down.

  28. codythao35 says: Dec 1, 2015 9:32 AM

    At least they beat the hapless tasteless Packers and will win again this week.

  29. greg3117 says: Dec 1, 2015 9:33 AM

    …and I thought Vinnie Cerrato in DC was bad……..

  30. 6jaws9 says: Dec 1, 2015 9:40 AM

    Rod Marinelli…. Worst HC in the history of the league. 0-16 proves it.

  31. carloswlassiter says: Dec 1, 2015 9:40 AM

    iammrbinky says:
    Dec 1, 2015 8:07 AM

    Fans complain about their inept owners (Jerrah, Snyder, Adams) but the Ford Family and Stephen Ross of the Dolphins are hands down the worst owners in the league.
    I’m not going to defend Stephen Ross, but he cannot compete with the Ford family for utter ineptitude.

    In a league in which bad teams get earlier draft picks and an easier schedule in order to hasten their improvement, the Lions have managed to somehow be abysmal for decades. At some point if they had any class the Ford’s would say “Sorry, we have failed, let’s give someone else a chance to do right by this city.”

  32. mvikes10 says: Dec 1, 2015 9:50 AM

    quit whining! Try being a Browns fan!!!

  33. torebear says: Dec 1, 2015 9:51 AM

    The bad news is it can get a lot worse than it was under Martin Mayhew.

  34. amishninjas says: Dec 1, 2015 9:54 AM

    Detroit don’t you listen to Michael David Smith. There IS someone worse than Matt Millen out there and I am confident that if you apply the same incompetencies you’ve used for every other major decision that didn’t work you can find someone as bad or worse. Don’t let him set the bar for you. You guys can and probably will shoot way way way below that bar. It’s what makes you you. It’s your identity. 4 decades of suck can turn into 5 or 6 or 7.

    I have faith that you will totally screw this decision up. While the Browns have stolen most of your suck thunder just remember that not even that dumpster fire managed a 0-16 season.

  35. charliecharger says: Dec 1, 2015 9:55 AM

    How many super bowls have the Lions been to since firing Millen? It’s easy winning super bowls if you have a HOF QB, but GMs who don’t have one usually end up in the unemployment line. It doesn’t mean they’re not good GMs. Great QBs have been known to make others look real smart. Bill Polian went 2-14 with the Colts the year Manning was injured. He’s a HOF GM, and he’s a very smart man. But he ended up in the unemployment line as soon as his HOF QB went down. I’d say Millen is just as smart as Polian, and I’m the biggest Polian fan out here. Belichick was a smart guy in Cleveland too. He just wasn’t winning because he didn’t have a HOF QB.

  36. In Teddy We Trust says: Dec 1, 2015 9:59 AM

    The good news for the Lions is that whoever they hire, it can’t possibly be worse than Millen.

    I’m not so sure about that. After all, we are talking about the Lions here. Millen wasn’t really that far below the baseline of the last 58 years.

  37. purplengold says: Dec 1, 2015 10:07 AM

    I’m not sure why, but the kittens have actually been playing like Lions lately.

  38. Obe Wan Jabroni says: Dec 1, 2015 10:13 AM

    jjb0811 says: Dec 1, 2015 7:39 AM

    The Ford’s should be stripped of the ownership and sold a person who actually wants to win on the field.

    Is it legal to buy/sell a person?

  39. lionswinsuperbowl says: Dec 1, 2015 10:14 AM

    Millen, you were atrocious. You won 31 games in 8 years!!!!!! You should donate your salary back to the city of Detroit.

  40. puntonfirstdown says: Dec 1, 2015 10:16 AM

    Well, the next guy could have back-to-back 0-16 seasons…

  41. blckjcksn says: Dec 1, 2015 10:24 AM

    I remember a group of Vikings fans showing up at Ford field in Millen’s final year with a huge sign that read “Matt Millen Fan Club.” Genius. They even put a picture of them in the local paper. Ouch.

  42. matt2calvin says: Dec 1, 2015 10:34 AM

    The Lions were 11-5 last year and in the playoffs.

    Mayhew was much better than Millen ever dreamed of being…

  43. paulieorkid says: Dec 1, 2015 10:44 AM

    For every game won in the NFL, another game is lost. It’s a zero sum game. And not everyone can have a winning record.

    Unfortunately for Detroit and Lion Nation – they never crested .500 under the Millen watch. But to Millen’s credit, he is owning it. Very very few people who reach that level ever accept accountability for their failures. They place blame, point fingers, dodge responsibility and get into the business of throwing fodder into the lanes busses drive in.

    Much credit to Millen for publicly owning it. Very rare to see that.

  44. bleedeaglegreen says: Dec 1, 2015 10:48 AM

    “I’d say Millen is just as smart as Polian, and I’m the biggest Polian fan out here. Belichick was a smart guy in Cleveland too. He just wasn’t winning because he didn’t have a HOF QB. It’s easy winning super bowls if you have a HOF QB”

    Polian build the 90’s Bills, so even with a HOF QB & a lot of HOF talent he didn’t win SB there. The Buccs with Brad Johnson & 2000 Ravens with Dilfer won with guys that are not even close to a HOF QB’s. Marino is a HOF QB, how many super bowls did he win? Fouts as well.

    Millen is no where near the personnel man Polian is, Millen is just a ex-player that was in way over his head. Polian did it with Buffalo & Indy. To say that about Millen is a huge insult to Polian.

    Lastly, in NE Bill & Tom are both HOF guys. Bill was doing fine building his team in Cleveland & they were getting better each year until Modell decided he wanted to leave Cleveland high & dry, that is when everything fell apart & Modell blamed it all on his coaching staff. Anyone that remembers the move & the fans reaction to it all understands what happened to Belichick in Cleveland.

  45. Great Caesar's Ghost says: Dec 1, 2015 10:58 AM

    Ike and Tina Turner “didn’t quite work out.” You sir were a disaster.

  46. Great Caesar's Ghost says: Dec 1, 2015 11:08 AM

    ariani1985 says:
    Dec 1, 2015 8:48 AM

    Ted Thompson is closing in on you matt!


    How so? Care to explain?

  47. chrisk61 says: Dec 1, 2015 11:15 AM

    matt millen…the pride of hokendauqua PA !

    I would love to hear his true opinion on the Sandusky-paterno penn st scandal

  48. chumpley says: Dec 1, 2015 11:26 AM

    Worst GM in history? Too soon to tell. The era of GM Chip Kelly just started this year…

  49. santamoss says: Dec 1, 2015 11:36 AM

    In Millen’s defense, I would also like to believe I could run an NFL team and would gladly take a GM job if offered, knowing there was a strong likelihood my team would be 0-16 every year.

  50. bk813 says: Dec 1, 2015 12:07 PM

    Polian had Manning and Kelly under center at QB during his GM tenures. He does deserve credit for the teams he built. However, he gets way too much credit. His staff deserves as much credit as him. I am always amazed how society always praises the “viewable” leader but never the minions who make it happen.

    Millen was in over his head in D town. In this generation of take no responsibility for your actions, its refreshing that Millen was honest with his viewers. He owned it. He owned his play level on the field when he played too so I guess its a part of his character. At what point, does D town start looking at ownership as the source of their problems? Its really the only thing that has been consistent in the past 20 years of losing.

  51. joetoronto says: Dec 1, 2015 12:09 PM

    It was actually the late John Butler who assembled the talent in Buffalo then.

    Polian just takes the credit.

  52. davepalma says: Dec 1, 2015 12:16 PM


    Please tell us who you would pick as GM… just so we know who not to pick.


  53. thermanmerman99 says: Dec 1, 2015 12:36 PM

    At least mullen wasn’t dumb enough to hire a worthless puppet imbecile like Caldwell.

  54. angrylionsfan says: Dec 1, 2015 2:15 PM

    ariani1985 says:
    Dec 1, 2015 8:48 AM

    Ted Thompson is closing in on you matt!

    I’d take Ted Thompson any day. He’s been stubborn and pragmatic, but his “build from the draft” philosophy has built a perennial winning franchise. Have they stumbled lately? Sure, but it’s a hard to find a better franchise over the last decade.

  55. angrylionsfan says: Dec 1, 2015 2:21 PM

    The only way Matt Millen could atone for his sins against the Lions would be to stand at the 50 yard line of Ford Field and let Lions fans stone him to death. He absolutely ruined the franchise and they will probably take another 5 years (or worse if the Ford Family follows their typical decision making process and hires the wrong guy again) to recover.

    I’m still deathly afraid that this momentary blip of success right now will make the Ford Family try and justify keeping Caldwell and the present coaching staff and promoting Sheldon White or Brian Xanders.

    If they ever want to chance the culture of this franchise then they need to fire every single person in the building at Allen Park. None of them should escape accountability for the mismanagement of this team and the draft over the last 20 years. If you didn’t speak up and convince that idiot to draft the right player instead then why should you have a job still? I would fire the janitor if he was there as long as Millen.

  56. pftcensor1 says: Dec 1, 2015 3:08 PM

    “The good news for the Lions is that whoever they hire, it can’t possibly be worse than Millen.”

    –Well at least until the NFL goes to an 18 game season – then it could very possibly be worse than Millen.

  57. ivanpavlov0000 says: Dec 1, 2015 5:03 PM

    When Matt Millen arrived as GM, we were coming off a decade of being contenders for the NFC North crown and having hope for the playoffs. When he left … the team was a national joke.

    As I recall, at one point Millen actually blamed Lions fans for his failure as a GM. So this half-hearted apology, said with a sarcastic smirk and a bit of glee, doesn’t cut it. Next year on Thanksgiving, on national TV, he needs to crawl (on his hands and knees) out to the 50 yard, admit he was the worst thing that has ever happened to the Lions organization, apologize, and beg for forgiveness.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!