By now, I’m sure you heard about the Lions erroneously sending out their list of pre-draft rookie visits not just to the league offices, but to the entire league. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported this, then ended his article with a little jab:
Why do we have a funny feeling that, in some way, this is Matt Millen’s fault?
Har har. Sean Yuille over at Pride of Detroit did an awesome job debunking the notion, noting that Killer reported the list only contained visits to date, not future invites—and Dave Birkett spotted a known visit that wasn’t on the publicized list. The best thing Sean did though, was point out how little the list really matters:
The disclaimer I have presented when tracking these visits is that you shouldn't try to read into them too much. Like Schwartz said, it is fun for us fans to track, but it's not like they are a great indicator of who might be picked in the draft. That is why I don't see this email thing as being a huge "blunder" at all. Hell, with the way Martin Mayhew and company are so secretive with some information, perhaps they meant to send it to the rest of the league. You never can be too sure, but even if this was a mistake I don't see it as being a very big one. It's not like the Vikings or some other team picking ahead of the Lions is going to alter their draft strategy over some names in an email about pre-draft visits. That would be almost as ridiculous as how PFT framed this story in the first place.
I’ll defend Florio, though he doesn’t need my help (and will likely never know I offered it!). He tries to keep things funny; one of the easiest fish to shoot in the barrel is poking fun at a perennial loser. I don’t ascribe this to anti-Lions malice, just Florio trying to punch up a relatively harmless story with a funny angle. We may not find it all that funny—but believe me, if the headline were “Vikings Expose Something Other Than Visanthe Shiancoe” we’d be chortling along with everyone else.
Florio says right in the piece he assumed Schwartz’s quote about “everyone already knowing” referred to agents disclosing what other teams their client has visited. It’s common knowledge in league circles; they just ask around. Yes, it’s embarrassing the Lions made it so easy on everyone else—but it won’t change anyone’s draft strategy. A team brings a guy in for a visit to learn more about him . . . they don’t bring in the guys they’re already sure about—and definitely not the ones they trying to keep their interest in secret. As far as I know, Mike Shanahan didn’t even say Jay Cutler’s name out loud before trading up in the first to build the Broncos around him.
Matt Millen made a lot of mistakes when he was here. He flapped his gums a lot about what the Lions were going to do. He approached the front office like he was the coach of a football team, and not like he was the President and CEO of a billion-dollar company—literally, his job title. He put in 40 and flew home for the weekend, every weekend, for eight years—in an industry where the best leaders sleep at their desk. The results were terrible, but Matt Millen isn’t an idiot. He isn’t a blundering meathead who can’t do anything right. He’s just a well-spoken, likable football guy who was in way, way, way over his skis. His biggest mistake was refusing to quit.
No, Matt Millen wasn’t a human curse upon this franchise. He wasn’t a fell demon whose pestilent shadows still lurk in the corners of Allen Park, making fax machines jam and administrative assistants hit “Reply to All.” To the contrary, the new, infallible leadership that everyone has so much faith in? The executives we’re so sure are awesome that we’re tempted to call this email leak deliberate? They were Millen’s right- and left-hand men. Yet, in just their second season, the Lions won more than they did in all but Millen’s best year. Their track record already speaks for itself: Matt Millen doesn’t live here anymore, and this little oopsy doesn’t reveal any cracks in the Lions’ foundation.