Monday, January 29, 2007

The Six Million Dollar Man

I got to thinking recently with Chicago in the Super Bowl how the fates of the Lions and the Bears have diverged since I saw them play at Soldier Field in the second game of the 2004 season.

That game was notable for a few reasons. One is that both teams looked pretty poor but the Lions ultimately won, thus ending their 24 straight road loss streak (three whole seasons). It was also the game where Charles Roger extended his broken collar bone streak to two consecutive seasons (nice work trainers). And it was the home debut of Bears Coach Lovie Smith, who was and still is paid less than a quarter of the salary (1.4M vs. 6M) than Steve Maruicci, the coach of the Lions in that game. Two and a half years later, Smith is in the Super Bowl and Maruicci, who was fired towards the end of the 2005 season is in broadcasting (though is still due to be paid 6 million dollars by the Lions next year.)

If the Lions were running a real business, Matt Millen would be fired on his disastrous financial decisions alone. Last year, the Lions paid 6 million dollars to a coach who didn’t coach (and is still the highest paid coach in the NFL), 2 million dollars to a first year coach who moved from a position rather than coordinator job (so here too they may have overpaid) and another 2 million or so for their offensive coordinator. All this money to coach a team who won three games. If you break that down per win, the Lions paid just over $2.5 million in head coaching salary for each of their three wins this season while the Bears paid less than 100K for their wins.

Millen fired his original coach Marty Morningwhig before the 2003 season (after giving him a vote of public confidence days earlier) to hire his Six Million Dollar Man. And in his haste to bring in the man they call Mooch, he did not interview any other coaching candidates, and was subsequently fined by the NFL for not considering a minority candidate. This whole episode just further proves that Lions owner William Clay Ford has absolutely no business sense. It's one thing to be the owner of a losing football franchise but to get hosed for millions by the complete incompetence of your own manager is quite another. Even if the team was winning, Mr. Ford should be upset that they have unnecessarily wasted millions of dollars.

If they were a real business enterprise (I know far fetched), and had looked at how overpriced a winning coach is in the NFL, and how many times qualified assistants go on to become successful head coaches, and how they can get those individuals for a lot less, why would you make any other decision (especially when you are going to lose three quarters of your game anyway.)

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