What is it they say about being careful of what you wish for?
A few weeks ago, I practically begged — actually, I think I DID beg — for Lions owner Bill Ford Sr. to say something, anything, about the state of his football team. You know, that whole winless 2008, one-win-in-more-than-a-year thing. It would be nice, I wrote, if Ford would prove to us that of all the bad things an owner can be indicted of, he’s not guilty of the worst: that he doesn’t care.
Maybe I like it better when he stays quiet.
It’s not so much WHAT Ford said yesterday, reported first by Tom Kowalski and MLive.com — although it wasn’t pleasant to read. It was what he DIDN’T say — and how he DIDN’T phrase what he did say, when talking about the future of the franchise and that of COO Tom Lewand and acting GM Martin Mayhew.
To wit: when asked if the stench of a possible 0-16 season would mean that the Lions would blast a big hole in the vault and rescue what little credibility was left by hiring a “football guru”, Ford said, “It depends. I don’t know about the odds (of hiring a GM with total authority). Let’s see who’s available and what experience they have and see if they fit in any of our slots.”
OK, what he SHOULD have said: “I think that since the model of most winning teams has a brilliant football mind at the top, then we would be foolish not to look at that hard as a model for our organization.”
Translated: I would like to emulate the Patriots and the Colts and bring that type of org chart to the Lions.
Fan reaction: Thank God.
When asked if he was happy with Mayhew’s performance so far, Ford said, “Oh yeah, very.”
What he SHOULD have said: “Martin was placed in a very difficult situation and it’s kind of unfair to judge his performance based on that. I appreciate his hard work.”
Translated: An acting GM has no real influence over the on-field performance when he’s brought in after three games have been played. So how can I answer that intelligently?
Fan reaction: That seems fair.
Finally — and this is a biggie — Ford said this when asked about the job security of head coach Rod Marinelli: “I don’t know, I haven’t made up my mind. I’m leaving it open.”
What he SHOULD have said: “We’ll evaluate Rod at the end of the season, as we always do with our coaching staff.”
Translated: What do you want me to do? Fire him now before I get a chance to talk to him and fire him in private?
Fan reaction: OK, but just see that you do it.
After reading Kowalski’s scoop of a story, I’m trying to remain calm and level-headed. Three things pretty much set fans off: 1. The idea of doing things by committee — one that would include Ford, Lewand, and Mayhew when it comes to the next hire; 2. The throwaway comment re: Mayhew’s performance; and 3. The “leaving it open” remark re: Marinelli.
Here’s, basically, what Ford is saying — before you jump off the Ambassador Bridge: I want Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew around, in some capacity. We’re going to hire a new football person. I haven’t made up my mind yet about the coach.
I have no problem keeping Lewand. His side is business, and by all accounts he actually does a pretty good job with it. I can even tolerate Mayhew sticking around, though he’s a Matt Millen Man — as long as it’s in a watered down, subordinate role. And I still truly believe that Marinelli will be canned. I think Ford’s “leaving it open” comment was just a poor way of saying it. And it’s making the fans crazy nervous.
But it’s also obvious that I’m not in the majority.
The fan base wants everyone gone — excluding maybe the poor secretaries and administrative assistants who are guilt-free here. The idea of Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew still being employed creeps people out. I understand that. But will we really care if those guys are still around if a new football man arrives and is given the authority that he needs? And will we care if they’re here if a new coach is in place?
But here’s where you might have me. Ford’s hiring history has been as checkered as a chess board. And the new man might have to swallow being part of a committee with Lewand and Mayhew. That makes the job less attractive for the type of person this situation craves.
So we’ll see. But the comments to Kowalski is far from a piece of candy in the fans’ stockings this Christmas.
So shame on me for beseeching Ford to speak to us. What was I thinking?