Millen keeps Moeller, talks about Sanders' future
Updated: Tuesday January 09, 2001 11:48 PM
PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) -- Matt Millen moved from the field to the TV booth to the executive suite. And now, as president and CEO of the Detroit Lions, he plans to keep head coach Gary Moeller and is talking to Barry Sanders about a comeback.
"We've been ... pretty much stuck on dead center for quite a few years," team owner William Clay Ford said Tuesday. "Matt offers us an opportunity to move ahead."
Millen agreed to a five-year, $15 million contract. He will have complete control over all football operations.
The team hasn't had a general manager since Russ Thomas left in 1989. The Lions have allowed their coaches -- Wayne Fontes, Bobby Ross and Moeller -- to run the football operation since Thomas resigned.
Detroit has not won a championship since 1957, and has won just one playoff game since.
In one of his first orders of business, Millen said he spoke with Sanders last weekend. Sanders retired from the Lions in 1999 second on the NFL career rushing list.
"I had a great conversation with him, and we're going to talk again. ... If Barry Sanders would like to play, you would want to explore that," Millen said.
Sanders' agent David Ware said Tuesday that he hasn't spoken to Sanders, but said his client hasn't ruled out anything.
Millen said he would meet with Moeller on Tuesday night, adding, "Right now, hey, Mo's the coach."
Change has been a constant companion of the Lions over the last few months.
Chuck Schmidt, executive vice president and a 25-year employee of the team, resigned Tuesday.
The Lions fired their offensive and defensive coordinators along with their receivers coach after being eliminated from the playoffs with a loss to Chicago at home in the regular-season finale.
Bobby Ross resigned midway through the season and was replaced by Moeller, a former coach at Michigan. The Lions finished 9-7 after losing three of their last four games.
The future of Detroit's remaining assistant coaches and front-office executives is unclear.
"I can't tell you what I don't know," Millen said.
Cornerback Bryant Westbrook is excited about the addition of Millen.
"I think it's going to be a great addition to our organization," Westbrook said. "I think this shows that the Fords are dedicating to winning. Hopefully this will get us closer to getting to the Super Bowl."
Westbrook hopes Moeller continues as head coach.
"I think that would be the best for us," Westbrook said. "I think he's what we need. The veterans and the younger guys are comfortable with him because he loves football so much -- it's in his veins."
The organization was interested in hiring Millen two years ago, but he asked to be removed from consideration.
"I'm willing to stake my reputation on Matt's success," said William Clay Ford Jr., the team's vice chairman.
While it was the younger Ford who contacted Millen two years ago, this time it was his father who initiated the contact a few days after the Lions' loss to the Bears.
"They've installed their faith in me, and I'll make them a promise ... I'll give them everything I got," Millen said. "I'm all about work.
"I'm a football player. I'm a football person. That's what I know. Some people say it's shallow, but that's what I'm all about."
The 42-year-old Millen has been an NFL analyst for Fox Sports since 1994 and worked for CBS the two previous years. He also is the No. 1 analyst for CBS Radio Sports' NFL broadcasts.
Millen's duties with CBS Radio will be completed after broadcasting Sunday's NFC Championship game and the Super Bowl. His last assignment for Fox Sports was the New Orleans-Minnesota game Saturday.
The Hokendauqua, Pa., native said his experience as a broadcaster prepared him for his job with the Lions because he would talk to coaches and players all over the league while also viewing practices and watching film to prepare for each game.
"It became a living encyclopedia," Millen said.
Millen said he will be able to take something from each place he played to help the Lions win.