Ask any Tigers fan about GM Dave Dombrowski, and while they may not always agree with what he does or how he does it, the fans will likely know, at the very least, what Dombrowski’s blueprint is for success.
Power pitching. Power hitting. Big names. Three-run homers and 95 mile-an-hour fastballs.
Sidle up to a Red Wings “Wing Nut” and ask about GM Kenny Holland. The fan will be able to deliver a soliloquy about how there’s a “Red Wings way” and how the team relies on savvy drafting and player development in Grand Rapids.
Catch a Pistons zealot coming out of The Palace and even though Stan Van Gundy has only been on the job for less than a year, the fan will at least know that Stan has a plan—and a long resume of winning in the NBA.
Stop a Lions fan and ask if there’s a Lions Way. Ask if the GM seems to have a plan.
The response is likely to be unfit to print here.
Martin Mayhew has been at this GM thing with the Lions since 2008. He’s not a newbie. Before succeeding Matt Millen, Mayhew served in the Lions front office for some seven years. So this is Mayhew’s 14th year roaming the halls in Allen Park and at Ford Field.
Fourteen years and we’re still waiting for Mayhew’s plan. We’re still waiting for the Lions Way.
Mayhew’s clumsy handling, along with partner in crime Tom Lewand, of the Ndamukong Suh situation, was made worse when Mayhew spoke to the media last week.
Mayhew, as has become his way, talked out of both sides of his mouth. He tried to play both sides to the middle in explaining why Suh leaving may not be bad, after all.
“I think anytime you lose a quality player like (Suh), especially in the short term, that is to your detriment,”Mayhew said over lunch with beat reporters last week at the NFL owners meetings. “I think in the long term, I think we’re going to be glad we don’t have that contract on our books. But in the short term, that’s an issue.”
The best defensive player in franchise history walked away, and Mayhew is trying to sell the fan base that, in the long term, everyone should be “glad” that Suh’s contract isn’t on the books.
The fans don’t want financial prudence; they want a freaking championship.
Those old enough to remember the Lions’ last championship in 1957 are pushing 70 years of age.
Can you imagine if the Lions had let Barry Sanders walk away, only to comfort us with the knowledge that Barry’s fat contract will be off the books?
Certain players come down the pike in a franchise’s history and they should never be allowed to leave, no matter the cost.
Ndamukong Suh was one of those players.
But he’s gone now so it’s time to move on. I get it.
The trouble is, the Lions are once again a store in need of minding, and it’s unclear who is doing that now.
For those of you who thought the problem with the team was the owner, think again.
Bill Ford is passed away and his widow, Martha, ostensibly is in charge.
Yet I haven’t heard vitriol directed at Mrs. Ford. Nor should there be.
The trouble with the Lions isn’t with their owner, it’s with the reporting structure.
The team needs another football man with keys to the executive washroom.
Mayhew and Lewand have had their chance, as direct reports to the owner. They’ve had six full seasons to craft a plan. And all they have to show for it are two playoff appearances—and two playoff losses.
It seems that the Lions are always reacting; they’re not proactive. Everything is done under duress. They can’t draft right.
The scrambling that’s done at Ford Field isn’t limited to the quarterback.
Mayhew and Lewand report directly to Martha Ford. Neither of them can fire the other.
Bill Ford Jr. is too wrapped up in the car company to be hands-on with the Lions on a daily basis.
It says here that the Lions need another football man—someone steeped in experience and wise in the ways of an NFL front office—to act as another layer of reporting between Mayhew/Lewand and Mrs. Ford.
There isn’t a Lions Way. There isn’t a plan. If there is, no one is talking about it.
The only “plan” since Mayhew took over from Millen has been to stock the shelves with skill players in hopes of making Matthew Stafford better.
When Dombrowski realized that the Tigers were highly unlikely to be able to sign Max Scherzer to a long-term extension, he executed Plan B: trading for David Price last July.
It was an example of forward thinking that simply doesn’t go on with the Lions.
Suh should have been signed, sealed and delivered a year ago this time, so the team could put that to bed and move on to other things.
It should never have come to free agency.
Suh is spilled milk, but his situation is also symptomatic of what’s wrong with the Lions—a team with no plan and no vision.
There’s too much desperation with the Lions. There isn’t the feeling that the hand at the wheel is steady amid the rough waters of the NFL.
The Lions need such a steady hand. They need a veteran NFL guy to oversee things.
They need someone like Ernie Accorsi.
Accorsi is steeped in NFL knowledge. He’s held a variety of jobs, including general manager, assistant GM, PR flak and consultant. He helped the Bears in their GM search in December.
He’s 73 years old and he’s available for a full-time position.
Running the Lions might be intriguing enough for someone like Accorsi, who laid the groundwork for a Super Bowl win with the 2007 Giants.
The Lions haven’t had a heavy hitter upstairs. They haven’t had heavy hitters on the sidelines either, really.
But Jim Caldwell seems fine as head coach. The problems don’t start with the coach.
The dysfunction is with the guys in the suits.
Mayhew and Lewand have had their chance. They’ve had six years. Now they need a football man to report to.
The Lions should give Ernie Accorsi a ring, but that phone call would have to come from Bill Ford Jr., who just might do something progressive, even by accident.
I will forgive you for not holding your breath, however.