MILLEN IS GONE, BUT THE UGLINESS LINGERS

Hire Millen!

Aw, come on, if you don’t laugh now, you’ll cry. It can’t get any worse, but it keeps getting worse. There’s no lower to go, but they keep going lower. The Lions fell behind by 31 points Sunday, didn’t score until the third quarter, and actually had a moment where, thanks to a replay review, they escaped a fumble – and threw an interception for a touchdown instead.

“Nothing’s good,” Rod Marinelli said.

“Nothing” would be an improvement.

Write this down. Record it for history. After a bye week, before a home crowd, in the first game of the Emancipation Era, the Lions looked like … the Lions.

What did you expect? That Matt Millen would depart and the team would start winning? All Millen did during games was drop his head into his hands. Detroit’s players dropped the ball.

Which, by the way, there was plenty of in Sunday’s 34-7 blowout to Chicago. Somewhere along the line, Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson forgot how to catch. Balls off hands. Balls off fingers. That’s just concentration. In fairness, it must be hard to concentrate when the voice in your head is saying, “C’mon, final gun, c’mon …”

Jon Kitna, suffering back spasms, was benched after throwing balls to nowhere. Dan Orlovsky came in and threw more balls to nowhere. The former Lions running back named Kevin (Jones) had more yards than the current running back named Kevin (Smith).

“Can you explain what’s wrong with the Lions now that you’re playing for Chicago?” I asked Jones, who was smiling in the Bears’ locker room.

“No,” he said. “But you can’t say I was the problem, can you?” On-the-field changes flopped, too

Jones at least gets a season that matters. Watching him leave Ford Field was like watching your ancestor sail to America, while you’re stuck in a potato famine.

The Lions can’t run. They can’t convert. And they can’t escape.

“Is the offense regressing?” Kitna was asked.

“I can’t say we took a step forward.”

“What’s the problem?”

“We’ve got a lot of problems.”

“Can changes be made?”

“We made some changes during the bye week. They didn’t work out.”

He’s not counting Millen, by the way. But he should. Millen is at a kitchen table now, but the talent he assembled continues its legacy of boosting the self-esteem of others.

Sunday, it was Kyle Orton, who is no great quarterback. In fact, Bears fans will tell you he’s their Achilles’ heel. But the mediocre are marvelous against the Lions, so Orton had career bests in yards, completions and quarterback rating.

Kyle Orton? A career day?

Then again, against our sad sacks, isn’t that the norm? The Lions gave Atlanta rookie Matt Ryan a touchdown on his first NFL pass, gave Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay’s eternal backup, a career afternoon, and gave their own castoff, J.T. O’Sullivan, his best day ever in San Francisco. Why not Orton?

Detroit’s defensive backs are laughable. They treat the bump-and-run like the nudge-and-chase. The defensive line – Marinelli’s specialty – can’t get enough pressure. Four games? Four losses? An average of 37 points per Sunday surrendered?

And no Millen to kick around?

Are they TRYING to make us watch hockey? When will Mr. Ford speak up?

“If you could use one word to describe what happened today,” somebody asked Williams, “what would it be?”

“Lost,” he said.

Lost as in defeated. Lost as in aimless. Lost as in don’t know where we are. The crowd at Ford Field was as loud for Chicago as it was for Detroit, and the owner ought to be ashamed of that. But none of us spoke to the owner. William Clay Ford Sr. apparently believes that issuing a news release of Millen’s termination was enough up-close-and-personal for this year. He must be exhausted!

Well, firing a president doesn’t make you a winner. It just changes your boat from sputtering to rudderless.

In fact, with this year already useless, a sleepwalk, an exhibition season, it hardly seems fair that the man responsible for this staff and roster gets to pass his Sundays in some other fashion, while fans pay for the torture.

Hire Millen. Put him back upstairs. Make him at least watch this mess. After all, why shouldn’t he suffer like the rest of us?

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com.

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