It's easy toforget that before he presided over the worst eight-year stretch of any NFLteam since the 1940s, former Lions president and CEO Matt Millen was thought ofas a pretty astute football guy. As a fast-talking, no-holds-barred analystwith CBS and Fox from 1992 through 2000, the former linebacker (and the onlyplayer to win four Super Bowls with three teams) was lauded for his sense ofhumor, knowledge and passion for the game. Millen was equally well-versed inoffensive line play and defensive coverage schemes, and seemingly so destinedfor stardom that some around the Fox network offices called him Baby Madden.Says NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth, who worked with Millen at Fox, "He wasthe second-best announcer in football in the opinion of a lot ofpeople."
Millen, who wasfired by the Lions three weeks into their winless 2008 season, reappeared as aguest studio analyst on NBC's postseason coverage last winter. He has sincebeen hired by ESPN as a college football analyst (his first game is Georgia atOklahoma State on Sept. 5) and will also contribute to the network's NFLcoverage. And beginning in November, Millen will be the lead analyst for theNFL Network's eight Thursday-night games, replacing Collinsworth, who took theplace of the retired John Madden on NBC's Sunday Night Football. "HopefullyI can find my way and fit into the evolution of where things are rightnow," said Millen.
Will Millen'sdisastrous tenure with the Lions (they are 31--97 since 2001) undercut hiscredibility? He will have to win over a new generation of viewers—especially inDetroit—who know him only as a bumbling executive. "It will be my job tochange that opinion based on what they are viewing and what they arehearing," said Millen, who is not scheduled to broadcast the Lions thisseason. Had he not left for the Detroit job, Millen likely would have ascendedto a No. 1 NFL analyst job, but he refuses to look back. "That's not theway I am made," Millen said. "What's done, you can't do anything about.All you can do is deal with what is in front of you. It's about starting over,and I'm O.K. starting over."
A guide to the NFL broadcaster carousel:
• John Madden retired and is being replaced on SundayNight Football by Cris Collinsworth, who is being replaced on the NFL Network'sThursday Night Football games by Matt Millen. He'll work alongside veteranbroadcaster Bob Papa, who replaced departed play-by-play man Bryant Gumbel lastyear.
• Tony Kornheiser left the Monday Night Football booth,and his shoes, if not his sensibilities, are being filled by former Buccaneerscoach Jon Gruden.
• The crowded NBC Football Night in America studiopanel welcomes two new experts: former Colts coach Tony Dungy and retiredPatriots defensive back Rodney Harrison.
• Fox shook up its game broadcast teams. Former studiohost Chris Myers gets a play-by-play gig, partnered with TV rookie and ex--NFLQB Trent Green. Former Bucs and Broncos safety John Lynch begins his first fullseason as an analyst, with Ron Pitts. And Charles Davis, formerly one of Fox'scollege gurus, analyzes pro games for the first time, partnering with theindefatigable Dick Stockton.
PAUL SANCYA/AP (MILLEN)
TV ALL-PRO Millen was lauded for his work as a game analyst before he left for Detroit.
JOHN P. FILO/SHOWTIME/AP (COLLINSWORTH)
LORENZO BEVILAQUA/ESPN (GRUDEN)
PAUL DRINKWATER/NBC PHOTO (DUNGY)
CLIFF WELCH/ICON SMI (LYNCH)