Matt Millen threw disrespectful JaMarcus Russell out of his office during pre-draft meeting
JaMarcus Russell has gone down as one of the biggest busts in NFL history, and stories like this really help explain why.
Former Detroit Lions GM Matt Millen joined “The Afternoon Delight with John Lund & Greg Papa” on 95.7 The Game Friday to talk about some of the current draft prospects. During the conversation, Millen, who was terrible as a GM, was asked about one of his few successful moves — drafting Calvin Johnson second overall in 2007. The topic came up because the interview was with a Bay Area radio station, and the Oakland Raiders had taken Russell first overall that draft, leaving the Lions with the future Hall of Fame wide receiver.
Millen was asked how the Lions had Russell rated as a prospect, and he ended up sharing an incredible story about the time Russell came to Detroit for a pre-draft visit.
This is awesome.
“Al (Davis) had JaMarcus out there in Oakland, and he came from there. I think he came from Oakland to us, I can’t remember. But he comes in for our interviews, and (then-head coach) Rod Marinelli and myself are going to interview him. He flies in … and say he gets in at 1 o’clock. So he gets in the building at 1 o’clock, and so we have people show him around the building, show him facilities, so he gets to my office by about 1:30.
“We sit down, we start talking, I’m talking to him, I’m asking him different questions. I start asking him about scheme, I start asking him … tell me a little about your offense … and he looks down at his watch! And I ignore it. And I keep talking to him. He looks down at his watch about three minutes later — I ignore it a second time. I keep talking to him, I ask him a second question, he looks at his watch. I say, ‘You got some place you need to be?’ And he goes, ‘Oh no, no, I’m sorry sir.’ So I ask him another question, he looks at his watch, I say, ‘You’re done, get out of here.’
“I say, ‘You’re done, thanks for coming by, go see Coach Marinelli.’ So he goes down to Rod’s office, and I’m talking to (current Lions GM) Martin Mayhew, I’m like, ‘Martin, that kid, you’ve got to be kidding me! What we’ve heard about him was true!’ I had about a seven or eight minute conversation with Mayhew, and here comes JaMarcus … and Rod kicked him out and did the same thing!”
The hosts were shocked by the story and asked whether Millen related it to Raiders owner Al Davis, who owned the team throughout Millen’s 9-year career with the Raiders. Millen confirmed that he did.
“I can’t believe what I just witnessed, so I call Al. And I can’t help myself,” Millen continues.
“There was a running joke up in Detroit that if you ever wanted to know the absolute truth with me, you either call my dad or you call Al, because I could never tell him anything that wasn’t close to being not the truth. So I get on the phone, and I say, ‘Coach, I don’t know what you’re thinking, but don’t take JaMarcus Russell. Don’t take Calvin Johnson, but don’t take JaMarcus Russell.’ ”
Millen then broke into his spot-on Al Davis impression.
“He goes, ‘Uh, why?’ I tell him the story, and he goes, ‘Uh, I don’t know, I don’t believe it.’ And I go, ‘Coach! The guy’s a stiff! He couldn’t pay attention for five minutes! He couldn’t even pretend! It drove me crazy!’
“I said, ‘Don’t take Calvin Johnson,’ but if he would have, I would have taken Adrian Peterson.”
Millen says that Davis didn’t believe his story and thought he was trying to discourage the Raiders from taking the player Detroit wanted.
“We get off the phone, and he didn’t believe me!” Millen said exasperated. “He thought I was B.S.’ing him! And I couldn’t have been more honest!
“I knew that [Davis] fell in love with his big arm — Al loved to throw the ball down the field — but it was still my team — it’s still the Raiders.”
Millen was asked if Davis thought the Lions were posturing, and Millen confirmed that was the case.
“Yeah he did,” Millen said of Davis.
Millen also shared another hilarious story, saying that he was trying to avoid his phone the night before the draft, but caved when Davis called. Davis asked who the Lions were going to take, and Millen broke down and said their pick all because he couldn’t lie to Davis!
It didn’t matter, because the Raiders took Russell first overall anyhow. Russell was out of the league after three seasons and 25 career starts, while the Lions got Johnson, who has scored 74 touchdowns in eight seasons. Check out some of the other players who were drafted in the first round after the Raiders whiffed on Russell: Joe Thomas, Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis, Marshawn Lynch, Darrelle Revis, Dwayne Bowe, Jon Beason, Joe Staley and Greg Olsen. Boy did the Raiders screw that up!
Russell actually was trying to make a comeback a few years ago and received interest from some teams, but nothing materialized. However, his dark cloud looms over Oakland so much that Terrelle Pryor once switched his jersey number to avoid the Russell curse. We can’t blame Pryor for that. And we cannot believe how disrespectful Russell was in Detroit! We’re guessing Russell was told by the Raiders that they would take him first overall, so he probably did not care about how his meeting in Detroit went, or maybe he was trying to dissuade them from drafting him because they were such a bad franchise. Still, I don’t think I could ever be that disrespectful regardless of the circumstance.
You can listen to the interview below. The good part starts around the 10:30 mark.