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Why selling the team isn't the answer for the Lions

Let's investigate the narrative that says the Fords should sell the team.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

There are few things in life I can guarantee outside of death and taxes. One of those things is that no matter what happens after a Lions loss, there will always be people on social media or radio shows claiming that the true problem with the Lions organization is the owners. And that the Ford family must sell the team in order to succeed.

I get it. Since William Clay Ford purchased the Lions in 1963, the Lions have only made the playoffs 11 times and have been quite possibly the worst franchise in the NFL, with the only exception being the Browns, I suppose. But we'll get to them later. Back to the obvious: the Lions have been bad and have continued to be bad.

But selling the team doesn't seem to be the right answer. Just like trading Matthew Stafford or firing everyone from the tops of the front office down to the ball boys. Change is good. Change does work. But it has to be change in the right place. At the very top isn't always the best way to go. Here's why the Ford's shouldn't sell.

They'll never do it anyways

Let's get this out f the way first. The Lions, while perennially bad, are a cash cow. From packing Ford Field every weekend, to selling merchandise and licensed products, the Ford family makes millions off the team. One might look at Forbes ranking of NFL teams by worth and think, "Hey, they're 31 out of 32. That's not great." But the Lions worth is still $1.65 billion. They get $51 million in ticket receipts and bring in a revenue of $321 million. Would you walk away from that?

New owners don't equal success.

Since 2000, 14 teams have welcomed new owners, 16 if you include the Lions and Raiders whose owners inherited the team after a passing. But we won't count that. Here's the list.

Team New Owner Year Purchased
Falcons Arthur Blank 2004
Ravens Steve Biscotti 2004
Bills Terry Pegula 2014
Browns Jimmy Haslam 2012
Jaguars Shahid Khan 2012
Chiefs Clark Hunt 2006
Rams Stan Kroenke 2010
Dolphins Stephen Ross 2008
Vikings Zygi Wilf 2005
Giants John Mara 2005
Jets Robert Johnson 2000
49ers Jed York 2009
Buccaneers Glazer Family 2014
Titans Amy Strunk 2013

That's quite a list. 14 new owners in 16 years. With these new owners, several of these franchises have seen some new perks. For example, the Jaguars changed their logo and color scheme. The Dolphins changed their logo. The Rams went back to Los Angeles. But longstanding success has not been one of those perks. Just look at the playoff appearances of each of these teams with their new owners.

Team New Owner Year Purchased Playoff Appearances
Falcons Arthur Blank 2004 5
Ravens Steve Biscotti 2004 7
Bills Terry Pegula 2014 0
Browns Jimmy Haslam 2012 0
Jaguars Shahid Khan 2012 0
Chiefs Clark Hunt 2006 4
Rams Stan Kroenke 2010 0
Dolphins Stephen Ross 2008 1
Vikings Zygi Wilf 2005 4
Giants John Mara 2005 5
Jets Robert Johnson 2000 6
49ers Jed York 2009 3
Buccaneers Glazer Family 2014 0
Titans Amy Strunk 2013 0

That's not awful... Unless you look at the Browns, Titans, Jags, Bucs, Bills and Dolphins, who each suffered in this category before their new owners showed up. Kind of like the Lions, all these teams missed the playoffs for years leading up to the owner change. The Browns for example, made the playoffs one time under the Lerner family from1999 to 2012. After the sale to Haslam, the Browns still haven't gone back to the playoffs.

The Bills, Rams, Dolphins, Bucs and Titans have suffered the same fate. They struggled in the years leading up to their sale. Then continued to struggle afterwards. What makes the Lions exempt from this?

Championships have been won after these purchases. But to be fair, they were won by teams that had already won championships with their previous owners and had been successful anyways. And that list is pretty short.

Team New Owner Year Purchased Playoff Appearances Super Bowl titles
Falcons Arthur Blank 2004 5 0
Ravens Steve Biscotti 2004 7 1
Bills Terry Pegula 2014 0 0
Browns Jimmy Haslam 2012 0 0
Jaguars Shahid Khan 2012 0 0
Chiefs Clark Hunt 2006 4 0
Rams Stan Kroenke 2010 0 0
Dolphins Stephen Ross 2008 1 0
Vikings Zygi Wilf 2005 4 0
Giants John Mara 2005 5 2
Jets Robert Johnson 2000 6 0
49ers Jed York 2009 3 0
Buccaneers Glazer Family 2014 0 0
Titans Amy Strunk 2013 0 0

So as you can see. Success is not a guaranteed part of the transaction. But that's not even as bad as it gets.

Mayflower Transit

Imagine you're a 30-year-old Baltimore man in March of 1983. You've been a Colts fan your whole life. One night you go to sleep and wake up to find that your team packed up and moved to Indianapolis in the middle of the night. Imagine how devastated you'd be.

While you're doing that, also try to imagine being a Cleveland Browns fan for 50 years and then watch Art Modell take your beloved team to Baltimore and then win a championship five years later. How Browns fans were able to deal with that, I'll never know.

What if you're a Los Angeles Rams fan? You have a team all your life--one that you stole from Cleveland, if I might add. Then your team moves to St. Louis and wins a championship. What about being from St. Louis? You have a team, a championship winning team that's part of your community, and they decide to head back home to Los Angeles.

Lastly the Oakland Raiders. You're a fan of the Raiders your whole life. Then they leave to Los Angeles and, you guessed it, win a championship. Then they finally come back again, only to bring several years of failure with them. Then once they start to become good again they begin negotiations to leave for Las Vegas. Geez!

This is one major problem with new owners. Since the Ford family purchased the Lions, eight different teams have packed up and moved to a different city. In some cases, they even changed their names. At least you know that with the Ford family, there's little-to-no chance that your Lions will ever leave you, because the Ford family is a Michigan family and the Lions are a Michigan institution. They've gone 53 years without turning on the city, what makes you think they'd start now?


Are things that bad? No, not really. Considering your team went 0-16 just eight years ago, I'd say you have it pretty good. But I agree, changes must be made, and some already have been made. The Lions have a brand new front office and could possibly have themselves a brand new coaching staff next season. The franchise appears to be going in the right direction from that standpoint for perhaps the first time ever. Did the Ford family make bad decisions? Yes. But has bringing a new owner made a difference for anyone else? No. Be mad. Shout from the mountain tops and eat your feelings with rage. But please stop with this tired narrative.

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