Observing the hysteria over NBC’s decision to employ former Lions GM Matt Millen on their Wild Card and Super Bowl coverage (“what, they couldn’t get Bozo? Charles Manson?”), the New York Post’s Phil Mushnick insists that had Millen not left televison work for Detroit’s front office in 2001, “he might today be widely known as one of the best football analysts on the tube.” As opposed to,y’know, an arrogant, confrontational boor who played a major role in a franchise’s decline.
We too often fall into the Chris Russo simpleton trap, equating a man’s character and overall worth to the world based on his W-L record (Russo remains in the Witless Protection Program). Such shallow reasoning would have made Ted Williams, perhaps the greatest hitter of all time, an equally accomplished manager of the Washington Senators.
And look at all the compromised and even crooked college coaches who have become football and basketball analysts. We don’t seem the least surprised or disturbed by that.
When one considers the pile of ugly circumstances that finally forced Jim Valvano out at North Carolina State, it’s difficult to fathom that he next quickly was allowed to become a valued ESPN analyst, then, having bravely confronted what would be his early death, a legendary and noble figure.
Barry Switzer wrote personal checks to his Oklahoma players, yet where was the indignation when he joined Fox? At Fox, he has worked alongside Jimmy Johnson, who, as the head coach at Oklahoma State, had no trouble watching his star defensive end Dexter Manley matriculate to his senior year while overlooking Manley’s slight academic deficiency: He could neither read nor write.
If there’s a gripe with NBC, it pre-dated Millen’s appearance. Upon returning to the NFL mix, NBC hired an army of big-name pregame studio analysts, essayists, kibitzers and stat-givers, several of whom have been, at best, feckless. That makes Millen a welcomed get.
Phil makes a salient point or two,but the objections to Millen’s new gig are less about his ethics and more to do with how quickly he’s been rewarded after running the Lions into the ground. There’s also the small matter of whether or not Millen has much credibility left with NFL fans. Certainly, sports broadcasting has no shortage of former coaches or players who’ve suffered thru poor seasons, but 0-16 is a rather dubious achievement. It’s like asking Mercury Morris to narrate a documentary on humility.
“From the time he was an All-America defensive tackle at Penn State, (Millen) has been a good guy with whom to talk football and most anything else on or off the air,” protests Mushnick, a columnist whose definition of “good guy” differs slightly from mine.