NBC started its coverage today of NFL Wild Card Saturday with a special edition of “Football Night in America” with Bob Costas (host), Cris Collinsworth (from the game site in Phoenix), Keith Olbermann (co-host), Dan Patrick (co-host), Tiki Barber (from Phoenix) and Jerome Bettis (analyst), joined by former NFL player and executive Matt Millen. Highlights follow:
BETTIS ON THE PLAYOFFS: “If you have a competitive bone in your body, you want to be out there. This is the only time of year I actually think of coming out of retirement.”
COLLINSWORTH’S RESPONSE: “Were you thinking of coming back as an offensive or defensive tackle?”
Patrick interviewed Millen about his tenure with the Detroit Lions. Highlights follows:
PATRICK: “Would you have fired you?
MILLEN: “I would have, actually. Probably not this year until after the season. I think when you start having changeover in an organization it filters down into the locker room. That’s tough to do. I thought that was a tough position for Rod Marinelli to be in. Rod’s a stud. Rod’s an outstanding football coach.”
ON WATCHING THE LIONS GO 0-16 AFTER HE WAS FIRED: “It was brutal. Obviously knowing everybody up there, knowing and understanding the details, watching it unfold, it was probably harder watching it from home than it was when you’re up there. At least when you’re up there, you have some interaction. At home, you’re just sitting there — your wife just keeps beating on you. So it’s tough.”
PATRICK: “How responsible were you for this season and the last eight years there?”
MILLEN: “Oh, completely responsible. When you’re head of football operations, you throw it back on me. You can say something about coaching, say something about the players, but inevitably, I’m responsible for them so I’m completely responsible for it in my mind.
PATRICK: “Were you qualified to take that job in the first place?”
MILLEN: “In some areas yes, in some areas no. Certainly from a football standpoint, and Xs and Os, that’s something you study for a long time. There’s a whole other side to that job that you have to learn. Frankly, I didn’t understand it going in and had to learn it.”
ON CONSTANT CHANGES WITH LIONS: “You change coaches, obviously you’re not having success. Any organization that’s going to have a winning record, it all comes back to not only stability but consistency. You have to have consistency in philosophy. You have to have consistency with scheme and that type of thing. When changing things over and over, that’s tough to do.”
ON HIS SUCCESS OUTSIDE HIS LIONS TENURE: “If you’re just going to say ‘that’s the stiff that used to be in Detroit, they lost all those games, it’s got to be on him,’ I’d say I was in Detroit, you have to blame me. There’s a lot more to it than that. I could give you excuses. I could give you reasons. To me, that’s just an excuse after the fact. You take the hit and move on. And how they look at me, I know what I am. You can say whatever you want about me.”
ON HOW CLOSE THE LIONS ARE TO WINNING: “A lot closer than people think. Right now, it’s easy to sit around and say, ‘the Lions, they stink,’ and kick them when they’re down. Is there enough talent up there in Detroit? Absolutely. They’ve got one of the top receivers in the league in Calvin Johnson. They’ve got a top running back. There are some pieces in the offensive line. They need some help on defense.”