Screw up? Admit it!

Why do some executives find it so difficult to admit mistakes? Ego? Arrogance? Insecurity? Stubbornness? Probably some of each.

In the world of business, experience has shown that a quick and honest demonstration of contrition can go a long way toward getting things back to normal and preserving image and reputation.

Time is critical. Wait too long and when you ask for forgiveness, it will be denied.

For example, Matt Millen. He had an excellent reputation as a professional football player and, later, as a network radio and TV analyst for pro games. He played on three Super Bowl winners, Oakland, San Francisco and Washington. He had been one of the league’s better defensive players.

In 2001 he left the broadcast booth to be president and CEO of the Detroit Lions.
But, Matt Millen was abysmal as an administrator and judge of talent. He had no prior player development or front office experience. According to the Wall Street Journal NFL executives admitted in private that Millen “has made more bad draft decisions than anyone else in two centuries”.

During his seven plus seasons in charge, the Lions record was 31-84. The cries for his dismissal were widespread and pretty much unanimous. The latest Lions team he left behind ended up being the first ever to complete a perfect 0-16 season.

After the third week of the 2008 season, Millen finally was fired. But, not until New Year’s holiday weekend, 15 weeks later, did Matt Millen finally talk about his dismal performance as a pro team manager.

He said the right things, shouldered all the blame, but probably much too late.

Millen said he’s “completely responsible” for the Lions’ 0-16 record this season. “You can say something about the coaching, you can say something about the players, but inevitably, I’m responsible for them.” Asked “Would you have fired you?” Millen answered, “Yeah, I would have.” He admitted he was inexperienced as an executive and that he had to learn many things on the job.

NBC Sports exhumed Millen over the weekend as an in-studio analyst, an apparent attempt to resuscitate his broadcast career. Will it work? Only time will tell. But, based on the early comments spotted on some blogs, it will be, at best, a 90 degree climb up a very tall hill.

Here’s a sampling of comments:

“You gotta be kidding me…why is this knucklehead on TV and why on earth would NBC believe his commentary is respected by anyone who knows anything about football?”

“Considering NBC is televising the Super Bowl, our football party may be cancelled!”

“You don’t speak to the media or fans in Detroit for three years and after you’re canned you come out with this crap? Too little too late Matt.”

“Too bad a descent football player will be remembered as a central figure in a 0-16 team. Guess he can always head over to the Bill Buckner Institute for bad breaks, in an attempt to recover.”

“WOW Matt ……do ya think ??? The fans have been telling you this for years. Quite possibly the most ludicrous job of drafting outside of a fantasy league in the history of the NFL.”

“Water is wet. The sun rises in the east. NO KIDDING, MATT!! You should have been fired after last year’s collapse after a 6-2 start. You owe every Lions fan a refund.”

For Matt Millen, more than seven years of ego, arrogance, stubbornness and an exceptionally atrocious record running a franchise have darkened his name and erased all the positives he enjoyed for more than twice that length of time as a player and on-air analyst.

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