Media Blitz: Millen's mismanagement in Motown

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Dec 08, 2005



By Cold, Hard Football Facts contributor John Molori
 
THIS WEEK:
- Millen's miscues
- Lucky Lou
- Official hypocrisy

Millen's mismanagement makes for misery in Motown 
Cheers to the Fox "NFL Sunday" crew for telling it like it is regarding the Detroit Lions. While the Lions organization chose to blame Steve Mariucci for the team's horrid play, true blame lies with GM Matt Millen, who has driven this team into the ground with horrible drafting and player personnel decisions.

Millen seems to draft players based on press clippings and the potential for superstar status, not based on his team's needs. I mean, what team NEEDS to draft a wide receiver in the first round three years consecutively?

Fox's Jimmy Johnson, a personnel wizard with the Cowboys, says Millen is "a part-time coach, part-time scout and, with his family still living in Pennsylvania, he's a part-time GM. A GM is a decision maker and look at his decisions. He's hired two coaches and fired both of them. Look at his first-round picks: Harrington, a bust. Charles Rogers, a bust. Roy Williams is a good player but he's been hurt and Mike Williams is a slow tight end. His decisions have not been good."

Terry Bradshaw says, "Matt has to learn that if you hire a coach, let him coach. Do not be on the sidelines. Don't scream and holler at the players while your coach is coaching. That is just something you do not do, and if you're going to build a football team, it takes time. You can't win quick in this league. You have to show patience. Mariucci should not have been fired."

Simply put, when it comes to personnel, Millen is the anti-Belichick. "When you pick a quarterback with your number-three pick and you make a mistake, that sets your organization back three or four years," says Fox's Howie Long. 
    
Blaming Joey Harrington for the Lions' woes is in vogue. Just ask Dre' Bly. But Millen remains the true culprit. People may forget that the Lions were not league doormats when Millen was hired. "This team was 9-7 when (Millen) took it over," said Johnson. "Now they've got the worst record of anybody in the NFL in the last five years." The Lions are 20-56 (.263) in the Millen Era.
 
Imbriano's imprint on NFL marketing
He is the streetwise cog in pro football's top marketing machine. As vice president and chief marketing officer for the New England Patriots, Lou Imbriano might just be the most powerful man on the National Football League's sports marketing scene. Imbriano's responsibilities cross over from promotional events to sponsorship agreements to radio, television and Internet programming.

"When you're the Super Bowl champions, you're number one in the league," says Imbriano, in his eighth season with the team. "But we operated as a championship organization even before we won the championships. We're not going to gouge a client just because we've won."

Among these clients are Ford, Dunkin' Donuts, Fidelity, Infiniti, GE and many more. "We believe in long-term business relationships and customer satisfaction," said Imbriano. Our sponsors have to do business from doing business with us. I have a lot more people calling me wanting to be involved with the team, but to be honest, we didn't get one new major sponsor simply because we won that first title (Super Bowl XXXVI)."

Gillette Stadium plays a big role in the current and future prosperity of the Patriots' brand. "This stadium positions us to win, and again, the luxury suites at the stadium were sold out before we won the Super Bowl," says Imbriano. "Thanks to the titles, we've had a nice jump in club-seat sales. Season tickets are sold out and we have a huge waiting list." The Patriots have sold out every home game since Robert Kraft took ownership of the club in 1994 and reports are that close to 50,000 people sit on their season ticket waiting list, all this while having the most expensive tickets in the NFL. Clearly, people are willing to pay for a quality product.

Before joining the Patriots, Imbriano worked at Boston sports radio WEEI (850 AM). The 1987 Boston College graduate rose from an intern to one of the station's key marketing and creative forces. Imbriano is responsible for much of the style and content still heard today at WEEI. His media savvy carries over into his Patriots' work. 

 "We've tried to create revenue-generating situations in media," says the East Boston native. Indeed, the Kraft family and Imbriano have been at the forefront of media in the NFL with radio game coverage (Patriots Rock Radio Network, with WBCN (104.1 FM) as the flagship station), a team newspaper (Patriots Football Weekly), a weekly television show (Patriots All Access), preseason game production (WCVB-TV) and one of the first and most technologically advanced team Web sites in pro sports (Patriots.com).

The team also has a lucrative contract for weekly radio programming with WEEI (Patriots Monday), which Imbriano says "is the right fit for the Patriots." The WEEI deal features appearances by Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Troy Brown. As part of the deal, WEEI also broadcasts games of Major League Soccer's New England Revolution, also owned by the Krafts.

"We have to have a vision beyond wins and losses," says Imbriano. "All of New England is part of Patriots Nation. If you include Connecticut and Rhode Island, you are looking at the No. 3 market in the country."

The media empire that Imbriano helped to build is unique. In addition to "Patriots All Access," WCVB-TV also airs "Totally Patriots." The team also owns its preseason game broadcasts, which are aired on WCVB. The team selects the announcers for the games. 

"Patriots Football Weekly" airs weekly on WB56 in the Boston area, and Patriots.com radio provides season-long coverage of the team. This season, the Patriots are teaming with Comcast for "Patriots On Demand," featuring a host of team-related programming at subscribers' fingertips.

Thanks to the work of Imbriano, the Patriots are the national model for pro sports franchises, using all forms of media to promote the team. In addition to the above work, Imbriano is in charge of all marketing aspects of the New England Revolution. He is the lead negotiator for all sponsorships, including stadium-naming rights, and works closely with the Kraft family on a host of sports and entertainment projects.  

"All this timing and luck didn't just happen," says Imbriano. "This is no BS. The Kraft's are great people and great owners. They care about the region and tried so hard to bring a championship to New England. They coughed up $350 million of their own money to get this stadium done. They deserve it."

Rattled refs
The NFL has a tendency toward hypocrisy. This is a league where cheerleaders wear a combination of dental floss and scotch tape. Yet the league was outraged when Nicollette Sheridan wore a towel on a Monday Night Football promo.

The NFL actually pays people to make sure that every NFL team abides by strict uniform codes. Yet the league allows Pittsburgh defensive back Troy Polamalu to sport a hairstyle that makes me think the Quiet Riot reunion tour has hit the Steel City.

The most recent example of the two-faced nature of the NFL involves the criticism of officials. Fox's Jay Glazer reported this week that the league gave Seattle's Mike Holmgren a "coach's timeout" for criticizing officials.

Normally, coaches can send questions and criticisms into the officials' department the Monday after games. The timeout means that Holmgren cannot question the NFL's officiating department for two weeks. Please. What's next, sending Holmgren to bed with no supper?

The NFL does nothing to curtail insulting and demeaning touchdown dances. The league sits and watches while players embarrass their coaches with immature sideline tantrums. But God forbid if anyone says anything negative about the almighty officials. It's as if the men in stripes are men of the cloth. As we now know, neither group is beyond reproach.

Getting personal, physical or vulgar is one thing, but verbally questioning officials' calls should not result in a fine or a "timeout" for coaches. Officials are human. They are subject to mistakes and are deserved targets when those mistakes affect a team's chance to win.

John Molori's columns are published at ColdHardFootballFacts.com, The Boston Metro, Patriots Football Weekly, The Providence Journal, Boston Sports Review, New England Hockey Journal, New England Ringside Magazine, TheRemyReport.com, PatsFans.com, BostonSportsReview.com, BostonPressBox.com, BostonSportsMedia.com, BostonSportz.com and DiscoverTheValley.com. Email John at JOMOL3@aol.com.


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