NFC North: Cris Collinsworth

Because one of our players started the ball moving on what could be substantial changes to the NFL's Pro Bowl, I'll take it upon myself to track suggestions and developments in that area. It's a tough and thankless job, but someone has to do it. I'm willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

Even before Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers criticized the effort level of some players in the Jan. 29 game, we passed along Patty's suggestion of scrapping the game and instituting an alternative competition -- skills, snail-eating, sludge swimming -- to benefit each player's favorite charity. To that list, we'll add a suggestion from NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth, who suggested a revival and tweak of the once-annual Chicago Charities All-Star Football Classic between the best NFL and college players.

Longtime NFC North/Central fans will remember that game was typically played in the preseason between the reigning NFL champions and the top rookies entering the league. It ended in 1976 for a variety of reasons, including the interruption it caused to training camp.

But what if the NFL turned the Pro Bowl into the first step of the following season by putting on display the proverbial stars of tomorrow? It would add several levels of significance to the event, including another chance for coaches and scouts to work with and observe draft-eligible players. And, Collinsworth suggests, it would provide the NFL All-Stars with more motivation.

"NFL stars would be forced to bring their A-game or get their butt handed to them," Collinsworth writes.

Part of me thinks that it's too late to stuff the genie back into the bottle. Other than damaged pride, there still wouldn't be any consequences for a veteran player taking it easy. I wonder if the Pro Bowl game has run its course.

I realize many of you don't put this issue atop your list of concerns, but I for one would like to see a more interesting and significant conclusion to the NFL season each year. We might not have hit the right idea yet, but we should keep trying. Rodgers' comments have put NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on the case, so let's try to think along with him and see what we can come up with.
Posted by's Kevin Seifert

Thanks to the magic of a 24-7 news cycle, our preceding entry was rendered obsolete about 1.6 minutes after I posted it.

Not long after I asked you whether Matt Millen should be a candidate to replace John Madden on NBC's Sunday night football production, the network announced that Cris Collinsworth would get the job. (A choice I can't argue with on any level. Collinsworth is excellent.)

But in the interim, more than a few of you accepted the offer to express your views -- most of which are still relevant as other opportunities figure to arise. Perhaps Millen could replace Collinsworth in the NBC studio or on NFL Network's Thursday night games.

If he does, some of you will dismiss everything he says. Torgo112 wrote:

No, no, no, a million times no. You can't build the worst team in the history of the NFL and then get a job analyzing the game on TV nine months later. His mere presence would be an embarrassment to whatever network he worked for.

Doug Pretty compared the situation to taking business advice from a once-successful CEO who ran his last company into the ground: "His recent failures taint his credibility."

JR of Gilbert, Ariz., wants to give Millen the benefit of the doubt but said Millen's failures were too stark:

If he was just a bad GM, fine. But this guy was statistically the worst GM ever in football and probably in all major sports. This is like saying, "Slingblade isn't the most articulate guy but can he take over for Chris Berman on Sunday NFL Countdown?"

But your responses weren't as one-sided as I thought they might be. Brett of Houston, Tex., is willing to give Millen a chance -- in a house-arrest kind of way:

As a Vikings' fan, I'd take Millen as a broadcaster. Sure, it may take awhile to forget the atrocities he committed in Detroit, but just because he's a bad General Manager doesn't mean he's a bad broadcaster. I just wouldn't listen to his thoughts concerning player talent very much. Or just think the opposite of what he says, until he proves otherwise. Detroit fans, on the other hand, are totally validated in hating him forever.

Of course, part of Millen's failures in Detroit were based on the eight-season stretch he was given to make them. Had he been fired after three years like most unsuccessful general managers, we probably wouldn't be having this discussion. Writes nicky_gumbatz:

People forget that it is real easy to say what should have been done and what should be done. There have been a lot of GMs who stumbled like Matt, but in his case the owners kept bringing him back. If you ask me the Ford family is to blame just as much as Matt because they should have fired him a long time ago.

My take? It would have been excessive to bring Millen back into a broadcasting role more prominent than the one he held before the Lions hired him. And while I agree with nicky_gumbatz, I also think Millen could have ended the misery himself by resigning long before he was fired. He shares some blame for that issue.

On the other hand, I don't think Millen's failure in Detroit makes him ineligible to ever broadcast again. There should be a place somewhere if he wants it, either in a studio or on Sunday afternoon assignments.

The only unanswered question is whether the Detroit experience lessened Millen's passion for the game. During the NBC broadcasts earlier this year, his style seemed more clinical and less entertaining than the way I remember him from his first stint. Half of the job is to elevate the fun factor, especially in Millen's case. Is he still capable of that?

Posted by's Kevin Seifert

As part of NBC's pregame broadcast team for Super Bowl XLIII, former Detroit president/general manager Matt Millen is spending this week in Tampa. We've gotten word that he's taken at least one ride on the Goodyear blimp. But one thing he most certainly hasn't -- and won't -- do is make himself available to the media throng.

Millen was absent Tuesday from NBC's media availability for its broadcasters. According to Leonard Shapiro of the Washington Post, the network's publicity department said Millen's attorney had advised him not to participate in interviews this week.

His attorney? What? Is Millen concerned about Lions fans pressing criminal charges for the job he did in Detroit?

Actually, no. (Or, at least, I'm pretty sure.) Far more likely, as Tom Kowalski of suggests, is that Millen is involved in a contract dispute with the Lions pertaining to the balance of his contract. Kowalski pegs the total under dispute at $12 million. Last fall, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported it was at $6 million-$10 million.

According to the reports, the Lions defaulted on Millen's contract after firing him in September. I can't say that I've seen Millen's contract, but standard practice calls for a team to owe the amount in full to any employee fired for performance reasons. (If Millen had resigned, the Lions would not have been liable to fulfill the contract.)

Millen took full responsibility for the Lions' predicament during an NBC appearance earlier this month and said he would have fired himself if it were up to him. While Millen was simply being honest, that sentiment could be used against him if the contract dispute extends to an arbitration hearing. If he would have fired himself -- in other words, resign -- that could be viewed as a tacit admission that he shouldn't be paid. Talking publicly about his time in Detroit isn't going to help him in any type of legal proceeding.

Millen has already pocketed upwards of $35 million for his tenure in Detroit, and no one is feeling sorry for him. But if you were wondering why you're seeing quotes from John Madden, Al Michaels, Jerome Bettis, Cris Collinsworth and the rest of the gang, now you know.