I know this declaration may seem premature. The Detroit Lions have not had a winning record for the season since 2000 in the split season between Bobby Ross and Gary Moeller. Even with that fact weighing heavily on my mind, I still sense that this time the Lions really are different. This time, the Lions really have shed the aura of failure and turned it into a quiet determination to win.
All of the long-time Lions fans will remember other times when we were teased by the success of the team. We remember the brilliance of Barry Sanders. We remember the team dedicating itself in the wake of the tragedies of Mike Utley and Erik Andolsek. I can still remember the destruction of the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs like I am still watching it in my living room. Under all of the moments that bred past success in the Lions franchise, I never had confidence. To me, it always seemed fragile and ready to slip through our fingers, as it eventually did.
This time it is different. The progress of the team is tangible and measurable. The people that surround the Lions exude a competence and confidence that is infectious. I do not sense that it is fragile at all. Rather, it is inexorable and inevitable, as long as the leadership of the Lions keeps their focus it will continue to eventually achieve the Holy Grail with a win in the Super Bowl. Probably not this season, but it could be. Someday in the relatively near future, almost certainly. I can feel it in my old bones.
It all started with the hiring of Martin Mayhew as General Manager. I have to admit that I was not thrilled by the hiring of Mayhew. He was a Millen guy. I had been so scarred by the debacle of the Millen years that I really wanted to sweep away all vestiges of the era so that the agony could be locked away in the dimly lit corridors of my memory. I wanted to start bright and new so that the new experiences with the Lions would not be tainted by the sour remembrances of He Who Shall Not Be Named.
I have to happily admit that I was wrong and I extend all due apologies to Martin Mayhew for doubting. The experience with Mayhew has played out like a satirical reversal of the Star Wars saga. The evil Darth Millen was overthrown by his apprentice, Obi Wan Mayhew, who returned goodness and light to the world of Lions fans. I am beginning to wonder if Mayhew actually owns a lightsaber. Certainly Mayhew has played his Jedi mind tricks on opposing General Managers by swinging some amazing trade deals.
Martin Mayhew has become a very solid and reliable leader of the organization. He is impeccably professional and organized. He is friendly, but he has just enough edge that you never want to risk stepping on his toes. There is always that sense that he would step on you like a bug if you messed with him. The total package comes across as a very effective leader and administrator of the Lions organization. The man commands respect like rest of us breathe air.
Probably the most important of all the people Mayhew has signed, is Jim Schwartz. He exudes competence. What is just as important, he does it in a way that is amazingly personable. That has made Jim Schwartz into the type of coach that players love to play for. It has allowed him room to rebuild the team without microscopic criticisms being tossed at him by the media. He is simply one of the great personalities ever to grace the Detroit sports scene. We all know that Jim Schwartz has not been perfect, but he is such a great guy you just want to cut him slack for his mistakes and let him turn it around.
The dynamic duo of Mayhew and Schwartz have been able to accomplish what I had though to be nearly impossible. They have restored my faith and confidence in the Lions organization. William Clay Ford Sr. has made many mistakes in choosing his General Managers. We often fault him for the ills of the team, and in some ways that is justified. There have been a lot of conspiracy theories about William Clay Ford Sr. caring only about making money. His fault is something much more human. He like the people he hires and he is sometimes too loyal and forgiving to them.
With the Mayhew hiring Bill Ford Sr. has finally found a man that is worthy of his loyalty and trust. This is a man that will do what is needed to deliver what the Lions need to win. Whether that is a player, a coach, a resource at one of the facilities, or a public relations bump, Martin Mayhew can deliver.
I apologize if my thoughts have been rambling a bit. This post is all stream of consciousness, so I have not had an opportunity to massage it. I am just sharing my feelings with the PoD community about how proud I am of our team and the people that lead it now. The Lions could still lose this coming season. Certainly they will lose some games. But I can feel the difference and this time I know it is real.
The pride has been restored to the Pride. Now all we are waiting for is the roar of victory.