Millen's silence suggests a (contract) dispute

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
As part of NBC's pregame broadcast team for Super Bowl XLIII, former Detroit president/general manager Matt Millen is spending this week in Tampa. We've gotten word that he's taken at least one ride on the Goodyear blimp. But one thing he most certainly hasn't -- and won't -- do is make himself available to the media throng.

Millen was absent Tuesday from NBC's media availability for its broadcasters. According to Leonard Shapiro of the Washington Post, the network's publicity department said Millen's attorney had advised him not to participate in interviews this week.

His attorney? What? Is Millen concerned about Lions fans pressing criminal charges for the job he did in Detroit?

Actually, no. (Or, at least, I'm pretty sure.) Far more likely, as Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com suggests, is that Millen is involved in a contract dispute with the Lions pertaining to the balance of his contract. Kowalski pegs the total under dispute at $12 million. Last fall, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported it was at $6 million-$10 million.

According to the reports, the Lions defaulted on Millen's contract after firing him in September. I can't say that I've seen Millen's contract, but standard practice calls for a team to owe the amount in full to any employee fired for performance reasons. (If Millen had resigned, the Lions would not have been liable to fulfill the contract.)

Millen took full responsibility for the Lions' predicament during an NBC appearance earlier this month and said he would have fired himself if it were up to him. While Millen was simply being honest, that sentiment could be used against him if the contract dispute extends to an arbitration hearing. If he would have fired himself -- in other words, resign -- that could be viewed as a tacit admission that he shouldn't be paid. Talking publicly about his time in Detroit isn't going to help him in any type of legal proceeding.

Millen has already pocketed upwards of $35 million for his tenure in Detroit, and no one is feeling sorry for him. But if you were wondering why you're seeing quotes from John Madden, Al Michaels, Jerome Bettis, Cris Collinsworth and the rest of the gang, now you know.