Tuck's Takes: Millen had it coming; Harrison can't deem anything dirty
That was quick. Just one day after Bill Ford Jr. publicly stated he would fire Matt Millen if he had the authority, Millen is no longer the President and General Manager of the franchise. Evidently, Ford Jr. has more authority than he realized.
This one comes as no surprise. Millen's tenure in Detroit was unsuccessful by every measure, from record on the field to popularity of the franchise among its fans. It's impossible to utter the names Charles Rogers and Mike Williams, two top-10 picks who failed, without cringing.
More often than you'd think, public sentiment sways the decisions among NFL owners when it comes to the hirings and firings of coaches and general managers. Fans, as the saying goes, vote with their pocketbooks. In Detroit, however, none of those opinions seemed to matter over the last couple of years, despite the uproar in the media and the community. William Clay Ford Sr. liked Millen as a person and didn't care about the opinions of others.
Except one. Ford Jr.'s public comments initiated a chain of events that was inevitable. Blood is always thicker than water and those comments must have been enough to trigger the move.
The Lions players are on break for the bye week and the news this morning that Millen is out surely hit some of them like a ton of bricks. The NFL is as much about who you know as it is how well you can play, and the fact that Millen is gone can only mean that at some point in the not so distant future head coach Rod Marinelli will be sent packing as well.
That can't be welcome news to the former Tampa Bay Bucs littering the Lions roster, guys who were handpicked by Marinelli. His eventual dismissal could spell trouble for guys like Chuck Darby, Dwight Smith, Kalvin Pearson and Ryan Nece. That is just the reality of life in the NFL.
It takes one to know one
Rodney Harrison has got to be kidding me. His Patriots got out-hustled, out-hit and out-coached for 60 minutes last Sunday, yet he had the gall to criticize Ricky Williams for a downfield block on Mike Vrabel. Harrison felt the below-the-waist block by Williams was a "dirty" play and uncalled for. For Harrison, of all people, to call someone dirty is preposterous, but not necessarily for the reason many people might think.
I am not going to focus on the reality that Harrison has a reputation for being among the dirtiest players in the NFL, because that is not my point in the slightest. As a matter of fact, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the way Harrison plays the game. Like most players, I had an intense dislike for him when I went against him for a couple of years while I was a member of the Buffalo Bills. He is the type of the agitating player that opponents hate, which of course only means his teammates love him, something I realized during my time with the New England Patriots.
Harrison is exactly the type of safety I would love to have on my team. Tough. Physical. Nasty. Shows no mercy and always plays to the whistle. And sometimes a little after. That is why I found his comments concerning Williams hustle play to be so curious. Harrison would have done the exact same thing if he were in Williams' shoes on that play.
It was a legal block that showed outstanding effort on the part of Williams and if Vrabel no longer wanted to be a part of that play, he should have stopped chasing Brown and protected himself. I don't think it was a dirty play, just like I don't think most of the questionable plays Harrison has had over the years have been dirty. I admire that style of play and think it is of tremendous value to any team.
What I don't admire, and can't condone, is Harrison's decision to obtain human growth hormone despite the fact he knew it was illegal and would give him an unfair advantage. Harrison was suspended four games in 2007 after admitting to taking HGH. Nothing is dirtier than knowingly cheating the system to give yourself a leg up on the competition.
Harrison needs to take a long look in the mirror and think about his previous transgressions off the field before he questions the moves that other players make on the field. His decision to attempt to circumvent league policy and gain an edge on all of the other players in the league trumps any on-field actions by Williams or others.
Now that is dirty
Just because I have no problem with Williams' block or Harrison's style of play does not mean I think anything goes on an NFL field. There are some acts that cross the line and some places, private places, that no player should ever go after.
According to Jeremy Trueblood of the Bucs, however, one member of the Chicago Bears went overboard on Sunday. Trueblood was seen bashing Adewale Ogunleye after a play, which started yet another round of pushing and shoving in a scuffle-filled game, this one ending in an unnecessary roughness penalty on the Bears' Charles Tillman.
What set Trueblood off? Apparently, his genitals were grabbed by a member of the Bears and he decided he couldn't let that go and I don't blame him one bit. Pushing and shoving after a play is pointless and can only lead to a stupid penalty that hurts the team. But there are certain acts that trump the rules on the playing field and have to be dealt with, and going after the family jewels is one of them.
I never had that happen to me, but I have heard of it happening. Evidently it is most common when there is a fumble and a scramble for the football. Some players at the bottom of the pile will attempt to wrest the ball from another player's grasp by forcing him to make a quick decision about his priorities. Does he protect the ball or his balls?
Frankly, it is a despicable act that has no place in the game and if someone ever did that to me I would do exactly what Trueblood did and then some. I am all for physical play, but any maneuver related to that area is outside of the scope of the game and should be dealt with severely by both the players on the field and the commissioner's office if there is any visual evidence, which of course is unlikely.
This is not the first time this season that this claim has been made by an NFL player and it looks as if players will simply have to police themselves in this regard.
College football fans take great pride not only in their favorite school's team, but also the conference with which their school is affiliated. The respective conferences are often compared based on their head to head match-ups and out of conference records.
The NFL has never really exhibited the same dynamic as fans don't seem to feel the same sense of allegiance with their squad's divisional foes when they play outside of conference. But if they did, the sound heard round the league would be "NFC East", much as the chants of "SEC" reign down from the stands every time a team from the Southeastern Conference wins a highly-anticipated non-conference tilt.
The NFC East, much like the SEC in college football, is far and away the best division in the NFL this year. Offseason debate centered around comparing and contrasting the NFC East with the AFC South, the other contender for best division in pro football. That debate, for all intents and purposes, is now moot.
Both divisions had three teams in the playoffs a year ago, and the lone team that didn't make the postseason finished 8-8. Unlike the AFC South, the NFC East has picked up where it left off a year ago as the division is a collective 10-2. That statistic is all the more impressive when you consider that the only two losses, by the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, were in-division losses on the road to the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, respectively.
Whether three teams from the division go to the playoffs remains to be seen. What is clear, especially after the Redskins defeated the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, is that the NFC East is the preeminent division in football once again. Every team in the division appears more than capable of winning all of the other divisions in the NFC. The shame of it, at least at this point, is that at least one of these teams will not be playoff bound.