Martin Mayhew’s Triumph Was Matt Millen’s Idea


If you thought the Matt Millen era was over think again.  His influence is still alive and well through current general manager Martin Mayhew. Or at least that’s how Millen sees it.

In a tell all interview with Kyle Meinke of MLive, the former Detroit Lions CEO took credit for a number of the moves made after his departure including the one that put Martin Mayhew on the map as an NFL executive.

Shortly after Matt Millen was fired as Detroit Lions CEO in September of 2008, newly appointed interim GM Martin Mayhew traded disgruntled 2004 first round pick Roy Williams to the Dallas Cowboys for a trio of draft picks including a first round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Mayhew turned those first round picks into Matt Stafford and Brandon Pettigrew and later went on to select Deandre Levy and Louis Delmas in the same draft all of whom have contributed to the team. It was this trade and the 2009 draft that solidified Mayhew’s credibility in the Lions front office but all of those things would not have been possible without Matt Millen.

"“I had that trade set up for Roy,” Millen said. “That could have been done at any time. I told Martin don’t do it until the end of the season. He did it before. He could have gotten more (at the end of the year). Jerry loved Roy. I mean, (Mayhew) could have gotten more than what he got. Jerry wanted him in the worst way.”"

That’s right the very same man who built the team that finished 0-16 orchestrated the trade that helped the Lions recover. Most would have used that trade to try and save their own job but not Millen.  When he his job was finally on the line he lobbied to have Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand split up his duties.

"“You want to know how it went down?” Millen said. “This is how it went down. Mr. Ford — look, there is some stuff nobody knows about, and they shouldn’t know about. But, anyway, when the thing came down, he didn’t know what to do. I said, ‘This is what you’re going to do. You’re going to hire Martin as your general manager. You’re going to take Tom (Lewand) and make him the president — that’s what he’s been trying to do for the last seven years. And Tom could be an asset.’“There were some things we took care of and straightened out. And then that’s what (Ford) did.”"

Meinke’s article goes on to illustrate the close relationship between Millen and his protegé Martin Mayhew.  Although that relationship eventually earned Mayhew his chance to be and NFL General Manager, Millen encouraged his understudy to distance himself at the first opportunity.

"“‘Hew,” Millen told him, “anytime you have a chance to distance yourself from me, do it. You’re not hurting my feelings. You do it.”‘You need to cut the ties and move on. Because they’re going to try to associate you with me right away, and they are going to kill you. I guarantee it. I know how it works.”"

Mayhew was applauded for trading Roy Williams and setting-up the successful 2009 draft the spurred the Lions return to respectability. But as it turns out is wasn’t Mayhew’s intellect but Millen’s genius that made the Lions recovery possible. Would the Lions two playoff appearances since Millen’s departure been possible without the Williams trade and successful 2009 draft that followed?Would Millen have had the same success if he was given time to see the fruits of his labor?

If Millen intended to create distance between he and Mayhew that was undone with this interview. It only serves to raise questions about how Martin Mayhew got the job and how much influence he had during the worst decade in Detroit Lions history. According to Meinke’s piece, Mayhew is well-respected in NFL circles but the continued connection to Millen hurts his reputation here in Detroit. Mayhew usually avoids talking to the media as he did in Meinke’ piece but at some point his silence may become detrimental as others (like Millen) are allowed to fill the information gap with self-serving propaganda.

Next: Millen Cheers For The Lions