American Football Wiki
Matt Millen
Personal Information
Jersey #(s)
54, 55, 57
Born March 12 1958 (1958-03-12) (age 63) in Whitehall, Pennsylvania, u.S.
Career information
Year(s) 19801991
NFL Draft 1980 / Round: 2 / Pick: 43
College Penn State
Professional teams
Career stats
Interceptions 9
Sacks 11
Fumble recoveries 8
Stats at
Career highlights and awards

Matthew George "Matt" Millen (born March 12, 1958) is an American former National Football League linebacker and a former executive. Millen played for the Oakland Raiders, the San Francisco 49ers and the Washington Redskins. In Millen's 12-year NFL playing career, he played on four Super Bowl-winning teams. Millen won a Super Bowl ring with each of the three teams for which he played.[2][3]

After his playing career, Millen was President and CEO of the Detroit Lions from 2001 until 2008. His eight-year tenure as head of the franchise led to the worst eight-year record in the history of the modern NFL (31-97), and resulted in his termination on September 24, 2008.

Following his NFL career, he was a football commentator for several national television and radio networks. His last job before joining the Lions was as a member of the number two broadcast team for the NFL on Fox,[4] as well as being the color commentator for Monday Night Football on Westwood One. On February 1, 2009, he joined the NBC broadcast team for pre-game analysis of Super Bowl XLIII. He was employed by ESPN as an NFL analyst, and by NFL Network as a color commentator on Thursday Night Football,[5] but currently only does color commentary on ESPN for college football.


High school and college football

Millen was born in Hokendauqua, Pennsylvania and grew up in Whitehall, Pennsylvania a suburb of Allentown. Pennsylvania. He attended Whitehall High School in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley region. He was a standout high school football player for Whitehall, which played in the highly competitive East Penn Conference (now known as the Lehigh Valley Conference).

He was recruited out of Whitehall High School by Pennsylvania State University, where he became an All-American defensive tackle for the Nittany Lions.[6]

NFL career

Following his career at Penn State, Millen entered the 1980 NFL Draft and was selected by the Oakland Raiders with the draft's 43rd overall selection in the second round.

During his 12-year NFL playing career, Millen played for the Raiders, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Washington Redskins. He won a Super Bowl with each of these teams, including two with the Raiders (one when the team was based in Oakland and one during their stint in Los Angeles). He won one Super Bowl each with the 49ers and Redskins, though he was de-activated for Super Bowl XXVI while with the Redskins.[7]

During his NFL career, he was selected to play in one Pro Bowl (in 1988). Millen finished his 12 NFL seasons with 11 sacks and 9 interceptions, which he returned for 132 yards, and 8 fumble recoveries. He also returned 7 kickoffs for 72 yards. Tackle were not recorded at that time.

Television and radio career

Following his professional football career, Millen worked as a color commentator for CBS TV (which teamed him with Sean McDonough, Paul Olden, Mike Emrick, and Tim Ryan), and for Fox (which teamed him with Dick Stockton). He also provided game analysis for the radio broadcasts of Monday Night Football, working alongside Howard David on CBS's Westwood One radio network.

At Fox, Millen came to be considered the number-two analyst for its nationally-broadcast games, behind John Madden (who had been successfully teaming for years with Pat Summerall).

Millen returned to broadcasting when he served as a studio analyst for NBC's coverage of Wild Card Saturday,[8] his first television appearance in an analyst role since the 2000 NFC Divisional Playoffs, and reprised that role for NBC on their coverage of Super Bowl XLIII.

On June 15, 2009, Millen was named the lead analyst for the NFL Network's Thursday Night Football telecast, replacing Cris Collinsworth.[9] He is also a color analyst for ESPN College Football telecasts, teaming with Sean McDonough and Holly Rowe.

Detroit Lions management

In 2001, Millen left broadcasting to assume the job of the Detroit Lions' CEO and de facto general manager. At that time, Millen had no prior player development or front office experience.

Millen was the Lions' CEO for seven full seasons, from 2001–07; during that time, the club compiled a record of 31-81 (with at least nine losses each season). Detroit's .277 winning percentage was the among the worst ever compiled by an NFL team over a seven-year period; only the Chicago Cardinals of 1939-45 (10-61-3, .141) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 1983-89 (26-86, .234) were less successful.

During the early part of Millen's tenure (2001–2003), the Lions failed to win a road game for three years (0–24) before opening the season with a win at the Chicago Bears in 2004. Overall, the Lions are 8–50 on the road since 2001.[10] Millen himself admitted to an interviewer in 2008 that the team's record under his leadership has been "beyond awful".[11] The Wall Street Journal said that NFL executives admit in private that Millen "has made more bad draft decisions than anyone else in two centuries".[12]

Despite the team's record on the field, Millen was the second-highest paid general manager in the NFL.[13] With a draft record that included a number of high first-round draft picks who were considered poor choices (Charles Rogers, Joey Harrington, and Mike Williams among them),[14] and widespread disappointment among fans, the media, and even some players, Millen received a five-year contract extension from owner William Clay Ford, Sr. at the start of the 2005 season.[15] Following the team's 3–13 performance in 2006, Ford announced that Millen would be retained as General Manager for at least another season, because, according to inside sources to the Ford family, they still believed that Millen was the best GM that the Lions ever had.[16] On September 24, 2008, Millen was confirmed to no longer hold his positions with the Lions. Whether he was dismissed or resigned was unclear.[17] It was later reported by a team official that Millen was actually fired.[18]

With the Lions trade of 2006 first round draft pick Ernie Sims in April 2010, only three of Millen's first-round draft picks, receiver Calvin Johnson (the fourth WR chosen by Detroit #1 overall during Millen's reign), left tackle Jeff Backus, and right tackle Gosder Cherilus, remained on the team's roster.

Competition committee

Millen was named to the NFL competition committee on August 4, 2006.[19]

"Fire Millen" movement


Angry Detroit Lions fans organizing a "Fire Millen" protest in 2005.

The chant began to spread during a college basketball game between Michigan State and Wichita State at The Palace of Auburn Hills on December 10, 2005. It started when ousted Lions coach Steve Mariucci was shown on the big screen, prompting a standing ovation for Mariucci and a loud chant of "Fire Millen!" The following night in Los Angeles, in an NBA game between the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Clippers, the chant surfaced late in the 4th quarter at the Staples Center. The chant had also been heard during various Detroit Red Wings games, both home and away, as well as during a college basketball game between Michigan and UCLA. Former Pistons power forward Rasheed Wallace even took part in the chant during a late timeout in a December 16, 2005 game against the Chicago Bulls. A "Fire Millen" sign was shown in the background of a February 3, 2007 broadcast of ESPN College Gameday at the University of Kansas. One large sign with the "Fire Millen" slogan was removed by NCAA officials at the football national championship in Florence, Alabama.

"Fire Millen" even turned up in a background sign in the sports-oriented comic strip Gil Thorp on February 20, 2006 (Detroit News columnist Neal Rubin took over as the writer of Gil Thorp in 2004).[20]


Rival Green Bay fans insisting the Lions "Keep Millen."

The "Fire Millen" chant returned in force to Ford Field during the second half of the 2006 Thanksgiving day game between the Detroit Lions and the Miami Dolphins,[21] when former Lions quarterback and first round pick Joey Harrington (often a scapegoat for the Lions problems) led the Dolphins to a 27-10 victory over the Lions, dropping the Lions' record to 2-9. More Fire Millen chants have been heard at wrestling event WWE's WrestleMania 23 held at Ford Field, and TNA's Bound for Glory. For 2008, the Fire Millen chants were back in force during the game against the Green Bay Packers.

Other protests

On December 6, 2005, Detroit sports talk radio station WDFN announced the "Angry Fan March" (also known as the "Millen Man March") in protest of Millen's contract extension.[22]

On December 9, 2005, in protest of Millen's poor record, one Detroit Lions fan site, known as "The Lions Fanatics," led by owner Dan Spanos organized an "orange out" event, which encouraged Lions fans to show up at Ford Field clad in hunter's orange, the color of their opponent that week, the Cincinnati Bengals.[23]

In a game against Chicago on December 24, 2006, another group of fans, led by Herbert Nicholl Jr., planned a walkout protest towards the end of the first half to express their disgust with the current management.[24][25]

Terminated from the Lions

After a 0-3 start to the Lions 2008 season, Lions vice chairman and Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman William Clay Ford, Jr., told reporters on September 22, 2008 if it were up to him, he would fire Millen.[26] Despite this, the elder Ford claimed he had no plans to dismiss Millen.

However, on September 24, 2008, Millen's tenure as team president and general manager ended.[27] Lions owner William Clay Ford later announced that Millen had been relieved of his duties as Lions General Manager and Team President.

Millen takes responsibility

On the January 3, 2009 edition of NBC's Football Night in America, Millen admitted his role in the team's downfall, saying he would have fired himself after the 2008 season.[28] During NBC's pre-game show for Super Bowl XLIII, Detroit's affiliate WDIV-TV ran a ticker on their website, asking viewers to question his credibility as an NBC Sports panelist, given his past with the Lions.[29] Over 36 pages of comments were posted on the station's website.[30]


"Devout coward" comments

In October 2002, Millen came under fire for calling an unidentified defensive player a "devout coward" on Mike Ditka's Chicago radio show, following a Lions 23–20 overtime win over the Chicago Bears. Millen apologized for the comments, with Lions owner William Clay Ford, Sr. expressing his disappointment over Millen's comments.[31]

Johnnie Morton incident

In December 2003, following a Lions 45–17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, Millen once again came under fire, after a postgame incident with former Lions and then-Chiefs wide receiver Johnnie Morton. Millen tried to congratulate some of the Chiefs players near the Chiefs locker room, when he confronted Morton, who claimed that he wasn't going to say anything to Millen. When he walked by him, Millen said "Hey Johnnie", Morton ignored him, and then Millen replied "Nice talking to you", and Morton replied "Kiss my ass." That's when Millen shouted "You faggot! Yeah, you heard me. You faggot!" at Morton, which was heard by a member of the Chiefs public-relations staff and a Kansas City Star columnist. Millen apologized for the incident, and after he was informed of Millen's remarks, Morton replied "I apologize for what I said, but I never expected anything like that. What he said is demeaning and bigoted."[32] There had been bad blood between the two since Morton was released by the Lions after the 2001 season, and Morton felt like Millen "tossed him aside."

Ethnic slur at 2010 NFL Draft

On April 24, 2010, at the 2010 NFL Draft, Millen apparently referred to fellow ESPN commentator Ron Jaworski as a "Polack", after which he made an on-air apology, stating that he "didn't mean anything" by the remark.[33][34]

Michigan vs. Michigan State Game - October 9, 2010

On October 9, 2010, Matt Millen was the color commentator for the NCAA football rivalry game between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. Due to Millen's history with the Detroit Lions, he is a very disliked figure in the state of Michigan. There was an outrage against Millen commentating this game, and complaints were sent to ABC/ESPN, on which the game was to be broadcast.[35][36][37][38]

Millen in parodies

A target of many jokes among those in the football circles, among one of the more notable examples is that of Bang Cartoons, who depict Millen as a gorilla-like oaf with a child-like mentality. He's usually accompanied by a young, mentally challenged sidekick named Billy.[39]

Notes and references

  1. Matt Millen NFL Football Statistics. Retrieved on 2012-03-29.
  2. Super Bowl champs on Lions roster Detroit
  3. Lions to stick with Millen by Dan Haugh
  4. Fox's No. 2 announcing team proving itself to be first-rate The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  5. [1][dead link]
  6. #60 Matt Millen. Penn State Athletics. Retrieved on 2011-09-28.
  7. Halling's Hall of Fame
  8. By MJD (2012-03-22). Matt Millen finds himself busy on a Playoff Saturday - Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved on 2012-03-29.
  9. Millen named analyst for NFL Network's Thursday Night Football. (2009-06-15). Retrieved on 2012-03-29.
  10. Source:
  11. article "Millen sympathizes with fans; has confidence in Marinelli, future". Retrieved February 22, 2008. (2008-02-22). Retrieved on 2012-03-29.
  12. Barra, Allen. "The Sleeping Lion", The Wall Street Journal, April 26, 2008. 
  13. [2] Sign On San Diego.
  14. Lion's share of blame goes to Millen - The Boston Globe. (2006-12-02). Retrieved on 2012-03-29.
  15. President CEO Matt Millen Signs Five-Year Contract Extension
  16. Lions' Millen: 'I'll never quit' The Detroit News.
  17. Millen out as Lions president, GM Fox Sports.
  18. AP File Photo. It's confirmed - the Lions have fired Millen. Retrieved on 2012-03-29.
  19. Lions' Millen named to NFL's competition committee, Retrieved August 4, 2006.
  20. Week of February 20, 2006 The Official Gil Thorpe Website.
  21. Miami 27, Detroit 10 Yahoo! Sports.
  22. Fans take aim again at Lions GM Millen
  23. Asking For Your Support The Lions Fanatics.
  24. Lions Fans are Mobilizing Their Hatred of Matt Millen AOL Sports.
  25. bears getting used friendly Chicago Tribune.
  26. Ford Jr. says if he was in charge of father's Lions, he'd fire Millen - (2008-09-22). Retrieved on 2012-03-29.
  27. Sipple, George, "Ford fires Millen, says fans 'deserve a winner'", Detroit Free Press, September 24, 2008
  28. Millen says Lions' downfall his fault. (2009-01-06). Retrieved on 2012-03-29.
  29. Shrader, Steve (February 2, 2009). Warning! Matt Millen's On. The Detroit Free Press. Retrieved on 2009-02-02. [dead link]
  30. Bennett, Dashiell (February 2, 2009). City Of Detroit Still Not Over Matt Millen. Deadspin. Retrieved on 2009-02-02.
  31. NFL - Millen apologizes for 'devout coward' comment. Retrieved on 2010-06-05.
  32. NFL Exec Calls Player "Faggot". (2003-12-15). Retrieved on 2010-06-05.
  33. Matt Millen apologizes for calling Jaws a "Polack". Retrieved on 2012-03-29.
  34. Matt Millen apologizes to Ron Jaworski : Beatweek Magazine. (2010-04-24). Retrieved on 2010-06-05.
  35. Caputo And Fithian- People Should Be Outraged That Matt Millen Is On Saturday's Broadcast « CBS Detroit. Retrieved on 2012-03-29.
  36. Oct 04 5:25p by Sean Yuille (2010-10-07). Matt Millen Announcing The Michigan-Michigan State Game - SB Nation Detroit. Retrieved on 2012-03-29.
  37. Vanderberg, Marcus (2010-10-05). Matt Millen Returning To State Of Michigan - TVNewser. Retrieved on 2012-03-29.
  38. [3][dead link]
  39. BANG CARTOONS: Hilarious NFL cartoons and podcasts!. Retrieved on 2010-06-05.

External links