In Friday’s Freep, Detroit Lions beat writer Nick Cotsonika posts the transcript of Matt Millen’s meeting with Detroit media members. As in yesterday’s Q & A with Mike Martz, the Lions’ fearless leader tended to speak in guarded terms. In other words, he was in CYA mode.
Between you and me, I don’t believe a word the buffoon says. So just as I did yesterday, I’ll translate what Matt Millen was REALLY saying…
Question: How do you handle criticism?
Millen: “I’m pretty good with blame. I have been blamed my whole life. You grow up in a family of 11, you get blamed a whole lot.”
The truth: “What criticism? I don’t listen to sports talk radio, watch any of the radio box with pictures, and I don’t know how to read. So I never see it. As for blame, it was all Mike Martz’s fault. Before that, it was Steve’s fault. Before that, Marty’s. If we have a bad 2008? It’ll be Rod’s fault.”
Q: There aren’t 10 other presidents of the Lions, though. You’re the only one.
M: “I expect it. It’s not any different.”
The truth: “I’ll find another scapegoat, don’t you worry.”
Q: Is it valid?
M: “If I was sitting at home and I was a Lion fan, you’ve got to blame somebody. I’d blame me, too. Nobody sees all the inner workings. That’s part of my job is to get blamed. I’m OK with that. But it’s also part of my job to win. We haven’t done that.”
The truth: “I already told you, blame Martz, not me! As for the fans? Do you see their names on my paycheck?”
Q: What do you think of your 31-81 record?
M: “It’s awful. It’s beyond awful. I understand that.”
The truth: “Could be worse. Anyway, I’m just sandbagging, waiting for the right time and place to strike, shock everyone and make the playoffs. I’m thinking 2018. Maybe 2020. We’ll see.”
Q: But you see brighter days ahead?
M: “You have to. I’m not made to say, ‘Aw, we suck. We’re always going to suck.’ I don’t think like that. I go into every game thinking we can win because you put a plan together and then you try to execute the plan.
“All the questions come up. Is it coaching? Is it talent? Whatever. It’s never just one thing. Poor coaching can kill good talent. Poor talent can kill good coaching. Sometimes they’re both there, and it just doesn’t work.
“I would say we played the Dallas Cowboys as well as anybody could play them. We outplayed them. We lost. Who knows why? Things happen in a game that go beyond that. It just didn’t happen. I don’t get it. But it happens.”
The truth: “I can see dead people. I can see for miles and miles. I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. But give me a break, I can’t see the future.”
Q: You are rarely available to the media. There is a perception you are hiding from the public.
M: “I can’t do anything about the perception. You can perceive it any way you want. The facts are these: I have 100% confidence in Rod Marinelli. I trust him. I think he’s doing it the right way. I trust his words. So I don’t have to say anything. I think he does a great job with it, and I think it’s good. There’s one voice. Go ahead and speak. I’m very comfortable with him. …
“If something comes up that I need to address, I would address it. I don’t care about ducking anybody. Just like when things were going well, I’m not going to say anything. That’s fine. I have no problem with that. I don’t need to have the spotlight on me.”
The truth: “Hiding? Duh. No shit, Sherlock. It took you this long to figure it out? Does the paper actually pay you to come up with such stupid questions, or do you do it on your own?”
Q: What did you think of last season?
M: “We wasted a great opportunity. That thing was just sitting there for you.”
The truth: “What do I think? You even have to ask? We finished 7-9! MY. BEST. SEASON. EVER.“
Q: What went wrong?
M: “I don’t think one thing. I think it’s always a combination of stuff. We’ve talked about that forever, because if it’s just one thing, you could fix one thing.”
The truth: “Just one thing. Martz. Well, two things. Martz and injuries. Actually, it was three things. Martz, injuries, and a tough schedule. It could have been four. Martz, injuries, the schedule, and the Dre’ Bly trade. And there was the fat ass tackle who couldn’t stay in games. Can’t forget the QB who makes more turnovers than Betty Crocker. And you could say the defense as a whole. When you think about it, the offense wasn’t much better. The special teams pretty much blew goats too. So that’s the 5 things that went wrong.”
Q: Why did things change so dramatically, going 6-2 in the first half and 1-7 in the second?
M: “I don’t think they dramatically changed. I think in retrospect you go, ‘Wow, what happened?’ But when you’re in the middle of it, you don’t see any dramatic changes.”
The truth: “I no-a speak-a da Eeengleesh.”
Q: Why did some games get so out of hand?
M: “I don’t know. I can’t figure that one out, where it was just complete … You look at it like, ‘What? This team didn’t even show up.’ Like San Diego. … I don’t know. That was a hard one for me.”
The truth: “What do you mean, ‘out of hand?’ Some of those losses weren’t so bad. What’s 5 touchdowns? Like 20 points? That’s not losing by all that much.”
Q: If you don’t know what went wrong, how do you fix it?
M: “There’s more than one thing. A lot of it has to do with mindset and things you can’t approach – how we’re practicing. We’re not good enough in some areas. You can cover some things up, but you can’t cover all of them up.”
The truth: Fix it? I already did! It was a piece of cake. Mmmm, cake. Next question. Oh yeah, fixing it. I fired Martz. I put Jim Colletto in charge of the offense. That should be good for a couple extra touchdowns a game, that’s 10 points right there. See? Nothing to it.”
Q: Do you plan to trade Shaun Rogers?
M: “I’ll listen. Absolutely.”
The truth: “Who? Oh, you’re talking about the chubby tackle. If I can make as good a deal as I did in getting George Foster and Tatum Bell for that Bly character, of course I will. If we can trade chubbo, we’ll save more than the contract money. We expect to cut our training table grocery bill by 2/3. Sweet!”
Q: More than in the past?
M: “I’m willing to listen anytime with anybody, but it just depends on what you get in return for it.”
The truth: “Well, not if you guys are going to crucify me again. Jeez, it was only flippin’ Dre’ Bly. What’s another receiver? Huh? He was a pro bowl DB? Same difference.”
Q: Rogers often doesn’t seem to live up to Marinelli’s standards. How can you keep Rogers and keep Marinelli’s credibility?
M: “The operative is ‘often.’ If we were going to say after the halfway point of the season, ‘What are you going to do with him?’ What would you guys have said?”
The truth: “The operative term is “operative.” As for Big damn Baby? Hell, I don’t live up to Marinelli’s standards! Yet I’m still here! How can you expect the fat kid to do so? Jesus, you people sometimes…”
Q: If you keep him, how do you get him to play well the whole season?
M: “Things would have to change, obviously. There’s some things that would have to change, the least of which would be his conditioning.”
The truth: “We have fatso on a strict regime of steroids, HGH, greenies, Mr. Pibb, Slim-Fast, Jenny Craig and liposuction. He’ll be ready to go all 16 games, or my name isn’t…isn’t…um…Matt! Yeah, Matt!”
Q: Will you give him a weight target?
M: “Yeah, of course.”
The truth: “As soon as we find a truck scale that can handle the fat ass, then we’ll worry about Target. Why Target anyway? What’s the matter with Wal-Mart?”
Q: Was he fined for being overweight last year?
M: “No, wasn’t fined.”
The truth: “Considering the fat SOB almost ate my hand when it got too close to his dinner plate, of course we fined him. Wouldn’t you?”
Q: Will he be fined this year?
The truth: “Fine him? Don’t be silly. I’m not going anywhere near him, I value my hand too much. I’ll let Rod do it. He’s a Vietnam vet, he can protect himself.”
Q: Has the plan changed this off-season?
M: “Last year the plan was get him healthy. Remember, he had just had his knees done. But it’s like anything else. There’s millions of people every day who start their new plan and get put on plans by doctors and come back three months later and the doctor says, ‘Are you kidding me?’ So there’s two pieces to the puzzle. Is there a plan? Yeah. Get your weight down. Now it’s on him.”
The truth: “Plan? What plan? We have a plan? Oh, you’re talking about chubby. You had me worried there for a second. The plan is to get him to play hard every other game, compared to every fourth game. Maybe every third game, we’re flexible. Hey, it could happen!”
Q: Will he attend a weight-loss program?
M: “All those things are available to him. But it’s up to him.”
The truth: “First things first. We got to get chubbs thin enough to get thru the doors of Weight-Watchers. Priorities, man! But it’s been tough. We had a month’s worth of Jenny Craig diet meals shipped to him, but it only lasted 5 days. It’s an uphill battle.”
Q: But it has been up to him and he hasn’t done it.
A: “It’s up to him.”
The truth: “Just because Fats Domino thinks a diet meal is a box of deep fried Twinkies with a Diet Coke doesn’t mean he can’t lose the weight.”
Q: Would you need a starter in return?
A: “It depends. You can get a starter with a pick.”
The truth: “I should hope so! My pickup truck does need a new starter, and for that matter, a battery…Oh, you mean in trade for tubbo? Considering all I got for Bly was two warm bodies to rot on the bench, then the answer is no.”
Q: What if in his mind he is already gone and doesn’t care?
A: “I think Shaun knows that regardless, if he’s here or he’s somewhere else, his weight’s an issue. So I think he understands that pretty well. I can’t speak for him. You’d have to speak to him about it. But he understands. He’d tell you he’s too heavy. He knew that. He knew he got too big. He had a hard time with it. It’s up to him.”
The truth: “Then we’ll have to live with the 7th round pick we get in return in trade.”
Q: What about Roy Williams?
M: “I’ll listen to anybody. There have been some calls. There have been calls on a few people.”
The truth: “He’s a really good safety. I’d love to have him! Is he available? Huh? Not THAT Williams? OK, then. I think he’ll lead North Carolina on a long tournament run. WHAT?”
Q: Is one of those people Shaun McDonald?
A: “There’s interest in Shaun. There’s interest in Calvin (Johnson). You get calls on different players all the time. Sometimes they’re the ones you say, ‘That’s great interest, but I have no interest in moving the kid.’ And other ones, ‘How about this guy?’ And they don’t even want to talk about them.”
The truth: “Who? There’s so many receivers, I sometimes forget who we have. All those helmet to helmet tackles take a toll on you, you know? Oh, you mean the little dude that Martz made me sign. You know Martz is gonna want him, and want him bad. We’ll name our price. We’ll get proper compensation in trade, at least a 7th round pick. Not bad, eh? I’m always thinking ahead…”
Q: Are you holding out hope you can get something for Kalimba Edwards?
A: “Or get something out of him.”
The truth: “We better get something out of him, because I just gave him another extension! HA! Fooled you! You should have seen the look on your face! HEE! Seriously, I’m holding out for a 7th round pick. Nothing less!”
Q: Can you do that?
M: “That’s yet to be written. I’ve listened for that. But he’s under contract. If Kalimba plays up to what he’s capable of playing – and there were spurts of that, too. …
“What do you want me to tell you? That, ‘Oh, sure, we’re going to trade him.’ It takes two to trade. Or, ‘We’re going to cut him.’ Why would I cut him? He’s under contract. It doesn’t make any sense.”
The truth: “Come on now. If I cut him, that means I’m admitting I screwed up. I’d rather lose 16 games with Kalimba Edwards, than admit I was wrrr…wron…wrooo…wroonnn…Misjudged his talent.”
Q: Why are other teams cutting guys?
M: “I don’t know. You’d have to ask them. It depends on the guy. Maybe they’re old or maybe they’re whatever. I don’t know.”
The truth: “They are? Really? Can I do that? Maybe I should look into doing that too.”
Q: It doesn’t hurt to hold onto him?
M: Exactly. If somebody’s interested in him, fine. We don’t have to do anything right now.”
The truth: “How can it hurt to hold someone? It feels sooo good to hug and to hold. I held Joey all the time! What are you looking at?
Q: What do you think of Mike Martz?
M: “Mike did a lot of good things. He gave us something to build on.”
The truth: “He’s dead to me. D-E-D. Dead.”
Q: Did you fire him?
M: “Why is that such a big question all the time?”
The truth: “Why? What’d that SOB say? We had an agreement!”
Q: Because it hasn’t been answered.
M: “I thought he answered that already.”
The truth: “You’re confusing me. Stop it!”
Q: He said Thursday he was fired. But the Lions have not said he was fired or that he resigned.
M: “No. I understand.”
The truth: “Yes, I don’t understand.”
Q: What happened?
M: “It doesn’t matter what happened. He’s not here.”
The truth: “LALALALALALA…I can’t hear you…LALALALALA!”
Q: Fans would like to know.
M: “Fans could care less.”
The truth: “I couldn’t give a shit about the fans.”
Q: Martz said he had no idea there were conflicting philosophies. How could that be?
A: “Ask him. I don’t know.”
The truth: “I don’t understand. What are we talking about again?”
Q: We did.
M: “Well, then he gave you your answer. I don’t really want to talk about Mike Martz, to be honest with you.”
The truth: “Who? What? Who did? He did? HUH?”
Q: In seven of your eight years, you have fired at least one coach or coordinator. How can you build continuity like that?
M: “You can’t. And that’s an issue.”
The truth: “What’s this con-tinn-ooo-itie thing? Anyway, if canning some piss-ant coach keeps me in paychecks, them’s the breaks. At least I still have a job.”
Q: Why do you think this is the right staff now?
A: “First of all, it takes time to put a staff together. Not eight years. I think we’ve hurt ourselves — and that’s on me — with making changes.
“I think when you’re putting a staff together, there are a lot of factors that go into it, the least of which is, you have to be on the same page philosophically. … So you ask me what makes me more comfortable with this staff or why do I like this staff, that’s one of them. I think there’s a lot more similarity in our approach.
“The next question is, what about the last ones? Why didn’t you see with that? I think we were at a different point. I think where our personnel was, you tried to accentuate what our personnel was, especially offensively.”
The truth: “I do? Oh, I do. Um…Uh…Because…Because Rod says things like “pound the rock,” and “teach, teach, teach.” Mr. Ford LOVES that crap. If Mr. Ford’s happy, and i’m collecting paychecks, then it means I must have the right staff.”
Q: Did you make a mistake bringing in guys who weren’t on the same page?
M: “Well, I would say, in retrospect, I did a poor job in that, matching not only to what I expected, maybe I didn’t communicate it well enough.”
The truth: “We were always on the same page! Till I turned the page in order to keep my job.”
Q: You knew Martz liked to throw. It didn’t seem to fit when Marinelli said he wanted to run.
M: “It doesn’t seem to fit always when you’re looking in hindsight. So, and again, there are a lot of good things that Mike brought. We tend to overlook that just because we didn’t win. Mike brought a lot of good things there.”
The truth: “So what if he wasn’t a good fit? Martz was a BIG NAME. Everyone likes big names! Especially Mr. Ford. Need I say more?”
Q: Do your scouts have the ability to find the right players?
M: “That’s another thing that happens when you make coaching changes. Every staff looks for different things. … You don’t get any consistency out of your scouting department, either. …
“When you don’t have the consistency, it makes it harder on scouting. ‘You’re looking for this?’ ‘No, we’re not looking for that. We’re looking for this.’ ‘Oh, you’re not looking for that. You’re looking for the fast guy now, because last year we wanted the big guy.’ ‘Oh, we don’t want that anymore.’ ‘OK.’ What happens is, when you get a roster, it doesn’t fit. ‘Well, it fit last year. Why doesn’t it fit this year?’ ‘Well, things change.’ That’s why you have to have some consistency.”
The truth: “Scouting? Next question. I said, NEXT QUESTION!”
Q: Is that one of the things that is on you?
M: “Yeah, it’s all on me. It’s completely on me. I’ve been talking about consistency for a long time. Talking about it is easy. Doing it obviously is a lot harder.”
The truth: “On me? You’re kidding, right? Nah, I’ll blame a coordinator or a scout, and fire them instead. If that doesn’t work, then my head coach gets the ziggy. Either way, I still have a job, and Mr. Ford thinks I’m actually doing something about it. Everybody’s happy!”