Analysis: What To Expect With The Lions Leadership Change
With very little fanfare, Martha Firestone Ford passed the torch, figuratively, and the job of Detroit Lions principal owner, to her daughter, Sheila Ford Hamp; Just a simple announcement on the Lions’ social media, very low key. You wouldn't expect anything else. That's not the Lions' way.
“I realize I have big, little shoes to fill,” Ford Hamp said this afternoon. It was meant to be funny, even if long suffering Lions fans could take it another way.
But what does this all mean? This afternoon, I’ve tried to read everything I can relating to the change in Allen Park. But with football still on pause, (though training camps might be opening next month) it’s really hard to draw any conclusions. And, remember, owners own, players play. Even if you’re hoping for big sweeping changes, they’re not going to happen on the first day. This isn’t Inauguration Day, January 20th.
I saw one tweet from a sport business website (behind a paywall) that said Ford Hamp is pretty much a chip off the block. But from reading some accounts of a private meeting with reporters after the decision was made to bring back Quinn and Patricia for at least one more season, giving them a win or else mandate, Ford Hamp may lean more towards her mother’s way of doing things rather than her father’s, which some described as literally being loyal to a fault.
This afternoon, Ford Hamp and team president, Rod Wood, had a media briefing via Zoom, and nothing earth-shattering was said. Ford Hamp said she was hoping to learn more about the departments in the organization that she’s not as familiar with as she wants to be. She also said you really can’t put a number of wins and losses goal on Quinn/Patricia, because of the unprecedented circumstances that everyone, not just football people are living under this year, and short of a complete collapse, that seems fair. If you're looking change, word is the major turnover within the coaching staff in the off-seaason came at Ford Hamp's insistence.
I’ve told my Lions fan friends this story over this past decade, to give them some hope. I’m big fan of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks have been owned by the Wirtz family since the 1950’s. (In fact, look it up, the Red Wings and Blackhawks were essentially parts of the same family for a long time back then.) But here’s the important part you need to know. The Hawks’ owner through 2007 was “Dollar” Bill Wirtz, who was despised by most every hockey fan in Chicago, every fan that was left, as he essentially made the Hawks invisible. But after he died, his son Rocky took over. Rocky hired some really sharp people, made some really good and popular decisions, like putting home games on TV, and things changed fast. Three Stanley Cups and essentially every game in the past decade was sold out.
The situation here is different in that Mrs. Ford looks like everyone little, albeit, rich, grandmother. In a documentary on the four female team owners in the NFL, on ESPN earlier this year, she's was delightful, but kept the lowest profile, too.
There were some stories floating around last year that maybe Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was looking to buy the Lions. The Fords say there was never any serious discussion about selling the team. And just because someone has a bazillion dollars doesn't guarantee success, especially in the NFL, where pretty much everyone has a bazillion dollars. You need to make smart decisons, and catch a break, especially with player injuries. So, just maybe, this is the beginning of a new golden age for Lions. Heaven knows they tested the patience of their fans for long enough.