During Week 12 of the National Football League, a former Oregon quarterback had one of his best days…
Column: Harrington exposed Millen
Beyond the dramatics surrounding Joey Harrington's successful return to Detroit on Thanksgiving Day, a more theatrical plot was brewing behind the scenes. As Harrington and the Dolphins pounded the Lions into submission on national television, sending the team to a 2-9 record and assured sixth straight losing season, Lions' team president Matt Millen slumped further in his luxury box chair. And then further. Before the team's next game, he could be completely removed from his throne. In fact, the throne itself could go incognito. Since Thursday, rumors of Millen's exodus have run rampant, with some local Detroit news channels speculating his departure could come as soon as Monday. Maybe even Tuesday -- at the latest. While Millen has not-so-surprisingly denied the reports, there is no denying that a change in Detroit isn't only necessary, but long overdue. And if anyone is looking for a solid example of Millen's repulsive failure in Detroit (besides his 23-68 overall mark), Harrington provided it with each mouthful of his blackberry cobbler pie -- his player-of-the-game prize. It wasn't because Harrington has become a great quarterback in Miami, he hasn't. And it wasn't the Harrington boo-birds changing their tune to chants of "FI-RE MIL-LEN," because that should have been expected. It was what everyone has known for quite some time. It was onfield evidence of what every imaginable statistic has hinted towards: Matt Millen should have never been hired as GM of a professional football franchise. Harrington's numbers, which amounted to a 107.4 QB rating, were certainly impressive. But his most viable stat -- his fourth consecutive win -- was the most damning to Millen. While Harrington will never be confused with Peyton Manning, he is slowly re-validating his No. 3 overall pick status with each win. And with each Detroit loss. Millen didn't necessarily botch the selection of Harrington, at least not directly. In fact, any other GM at that slot would have picked him. Harrington was the perfect choice at the right time in Detroit, and he didn't forget how to play football between the airplane trip from Oregon to Detroit. He was just never allowed to. Instead of building around Harrington, Millen went out and surrounded his prized pick with subpart talent. In Harrington's first two seasons, the team's offensive stat leaders consisted of receivers Bill Schroeder, Az-Zahir Hakim and running backs James Stewart and Shawn Bryson. Three of the four aren't even in the league, while Bryson is -- and always has been -- a third-down specialist. As Millen shuffled coaches, his free-agent acquisitions and draft picks -- including the franchise quarterback -- continued to struggle. The playoff-contending franchise that had gone 17-15 in the two years prior to his arrival had officially adopted a losing attitude. Only three players remain from Detroit's 2000 team, which missed the playoffs on a last second field goal, leaving Millen solely responsible for one of the worst six-year periods in professional sports history. The difference between Miami, a franchise that builds teams rather than just a talented group of individuals, and Detroit was summarized through Harrington's play. Under a new coaching staff in 2006, Detroit continues to lose. Its current quarterback, despite a winning attitude and above-average playing ability, is unable to win. So perhaps it was fitting that on national television, a former Lions' quarterback -- one that was ruthlessly blamed for the team's struggles -- returned on the franchise's most sacred day to set the record straight. If Thursday's game does sway the Lions' ownership to lay the much delayed hammer on Millen's reign, Harrington may have -- for one day, at least -- become what everyone wanted him to be since the 2002 season: the franchise savior.
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