William Clay Ford Sr. – No owner in the NFL has been as overall ineffective an owner at winning as WCF. No Lions team under his watch has been to the Super Bowl. After purchasing the team in 1963, the Lions have since gone on to win only one playoff game in a nearly forty year span of ownership, among only ten playoff appearances overall. As a business, Ford has run the Lions quite successfully, using a similar approach as in the auto industry – create a product the public is willing to purchase at a competitive price. Ford has done this quite successfully, as the Lions are quite profitable despite their lack of meaningful results.
Analysis – This is perhaps the area of the franchise most in need of change, and least likely to see it.
Grade - F
Heir Apparent - Vice Chairman of the Detroit Lions, William Clay Ford Jr. Unfortunately, he will forever be linked to the fact that hiring Matt Millen was his idea.
Tom Lewand – Oh Tommy boy, look how far you’ve come. When I first so your name in print, it was in those good old pre-salary cap days when you were in charge of negotiating contracts with the draft picks. Now your title says that you “Oversee all aspects of the organization.”. Quite often this is a position which an owner who cares about the team would assume, but in Detroit, you are now ultimately responsible on paper. A lot of people may insert jokes about “Bean Counters in charge of Businesses” here, and they might just hit uncomfortably close to the mark, wouldn’t they? Well, this whole shebang is your baby now, and like MM below, you have been in this position long enough to be fully judged on the product on the field this year. Good luck!
Analysis – As previously stated, in many cases the owner assumes this position, or a pure football guy like Parcells, but the Lions opted to go this route………
Grade – Incomplete. This year will determine Mr. Lewand’s grade.
Heir Apparent – William Clay Ford Jr. He does seem to be more involved with the team, as a former Rugby player at Princeton, than his father, so it would not surprise me to see him take the reigns eventually.
Martin Mayhew – An enigma, wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in a mystery. Like WCF Jr., Martin Mayhew will also forever be linked to the Matt Millen era, and justly or unjustly, will always be shadowed in this link to the worst chapter in the history of the Lions. Inheriting the 0-16 team, it may be said that the team had nowhere to go but up. Having purged the roster of all but three Millen era players (Calvin Johnson, Dominic Raiola, and Don Muhlbach), this is his team more than ever can be said before, and the one which he can legitimately be judged by.
I can praise Mayhew for his drafting of Stafford. At the time, I analyzed the move as being a gimmick to sell tickets, and was in favor of the Lions drafting Andre Smith. At the same time I can criticize Mayhew for drafting players who had legitimate red flags in high rounds, and have failed to provide the team a return on their high round investment. Jahvid Best (1st round) had a concussion history at Cal, and while an electrifying player, may never play another snap in the NFL. Titus Young (2nd round) had character concerns at Boise State, and has since been released. Mikel LeShoure (2nd round), also with character concerns and involved in one off-field incident, has failed to live up to the hype he had coming out of Illinois. Ryan Broyles (2nd round), injured when drafted, suffered injury again last year as a rookie.
While making a slew of trades and free agency moves in his initial year, Mayhew has been relatively quiet on that front ever since. His free agency moves have been a mixed bag. KVB was a great move initially, but the Lions are now saddled with the dead money from his contract and release after he clearly lost a couple steps last year. Nate Burleson has been a team leader, and a hard worker, but seems to only provide a legitimate #2 WR presence during the 4th quarter of most games. Shaun Hill could easily be a starting QB on many NFL teams, and provides the NFC North’s best backup QB option. Stephen Tulloch provides a presence in the middle that the Lions haven’t had since Stephen Boyd.
Analysis – Mayhew is a legitimate step up from Millen, no doubt about it, but that’s a weak argument. It’s comparing apples to a dog turd. On his own standing, Mayhew goes into this season as a bottom third of the league tier GM.
Grade – Hovering on the hairline split between C- and D+.
Heir Apparent – Brian Xanders. Xanders conducted many successful drafts in Denver, but will also be forever linked to the first round drafting of Tim Tebow.
Senior Personnel Executive
James “Shack” Harris
– Most people don’t know, but Harris was a pioneer of the game. He was the first black QB in the NFL to start for an entire season, one in which the Los Angeles Rams won the NFC West. He also set the pass accuracy record, at the time, for the Rams. As a person, Harris has been known throughout his life as a man of abiding quiet dignity, with a high degree of professionalism. Although his role within the organization is unclear to many, what is clear is that he has influence within the organization, but I will let you be the judge of that.
Harris, as a GM with the Jacksonville Jaguars, was known as a “swing for the fences” type with his picks. He also wasn’t afraid of drafting guys with red flags. WR Matt Jones out of Arkansas was the embodiment of this philosophy. He also reached on such players as Reggie Williams, underachieving TE Mercedes Lewis, S Reggie Nelson, and DE Derrick Harvey (As a sidenote, Harvey is one inch shorter and 1 pound heavier than the Lions most recent first round pick, both posted very similar combine numbers, just sayin….) These were all first round picks of Harris, along with QB Byron Leftwich, and 2rd Rd RB MJD. Interestingly enough, since he came on board in 09, the Lions have drafted QB, RB, TE, and DE in the first round, S Louis Delmas with the first pick of the 2nd round, and two 2nd round WR’s. Hmmm…
Analysis – For this analysis, I will use this quote from Big Cat Country board member, The Eleventh Doctor, who posted this on Oct 24 2012 07:11 PM. “Shack was kind of Matt Millen-ish. The way we kept picking WR and picking WR. And none of them worked out. That set us back years at the position of Wide Receiver.”.
Grade – D
Heir Apparent – Mike Tannenbaum. Senior Personnel Executive is a kind and polite way of saying, “former FAILED GM somewhere else”, and are generally seen in play in positions with first time general managers.
Vice President of Football Operations
Cedric Saunders – A lot of people don’t know what the position is, the teams official website breaks it down.
Saunders works closely with Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Martin Mayhew and oversees the team’s football operations, including the coordination of the year-round football calendar. Among his football operations duties, Saunders oversees the Lions’ player development department, video department, equipment operations, team travel, athletic training staff, strength and conditioning, cafeteria operations, security department and human resources. Along with the coordination of those departments, he handles the annual budgets for the coaching staff, coaching support staff and player personnel department
Sounds grand right? Here’s the reality – while he may not be in charge of the “big life changing” team operations, he’s in charge of all the little things people never think about. Scheduling the rookies training on sexual harassment in the workplace, Cedric’s the guy. Snow forecast in Green Bay next week, does the team have the right cleats packed? Cedric’s the guy. Stafford walks into the film room at 4 am and wants to study the new rookie CB from BFE State that the Chargers drafted in the 6th round? You guessed it, Cedric’s the guy in charge of all that.
Analysis - The fact that you don’t hear complaints, see bungled reservations, flaps, etc, tells me this Cedric and his team is taking care of business. It’s a difficult and thankless position. The only criticism I have is that in being in charge of strength and conditioning, it would be nice to see a focus on injury prevention as much as possible.
Grade – A-
Heir Apparent – Galen Duncan. Hopefully Saunders won’t be going anywhere for awhile (unless he is offered a GM role somewhere), but Duncan (who also serves as the team psychologist) is a detail oriented professional more than capable of filling the role.
Vice President of Pro Personnel
Sheldon White – In his executive role, White is in charge of a variety of things, including arranging meetings with targeted free agents. The Lions, during White’s tenure, have seldom failed to get players in here that they have targeted, and this success can be directly attributed to the work of White and his staff. White also performs many other tasks within the organization, including scouting opposition, keeping abreast of street free agents within season, arranging tryouts, workouts, etc.
Analysis – He has done a fine job in this capacity, and there is no reason to believe he wouldn’t do fine given the opportunity to do more either.
Grade – A
Heir Apparent – Miller McCalmon. McCalmon has a wealth of experience in various NFL Front Offices. Odds are, the only way he goes on to this position is if White is promoted.
Director of College Scouting
Scott McEwan – The longest tenured member of the Lions scouting department with 26 years, McEwan, or the root of all evil and wrong with this team if you prefer, is in charge of all the scouting of college players that have brought you the likes of Derrick Williams, Amarei Spievey, and whole flocks of criss-crossed defects that couldn’t find their ass with both hands, a map, and a seeing eye dog. McEwan seemingly awards points for knee injuries and mental instability. Do I sound bitter? Does it sound like I hold this guy personally responsible for the puke I have endured watching for the last decade? Because I do. It all starts with information received, and we all know someone in this organization has dropped the ball more than once, and Scott, I blame you.
Analysis – I’m not sure any other team in professional sports has kept around someone as clearly inept for this long, ever. On second thought, look at who signs the checks....
Grade – F-
Heir Apparent – Hopefully someone from outside of the organization, having a list of names, a blindfold, and a dart would mark an improvement.
Hope you enjoyed that, I learned a bit while writing this, and hopefully some of you will get something out of it too. All right, let's hear what you have to say :)