Detroit Lions team president Rod Wood and the newly-hired Chris Spielman joined the local media for a 30-minute Zoom session to introduce Spielman as the team’s new Special assistant to Chairman and President & CEO. It was an opportunity for Spielman to re-introduce himself to the city and the local media, while also answering some questions clarifying his role, his vision and the impact he will have on the franchise both in the immediate and the long term.
Here are the five biggest takeaways from that media session.
Creating a Detroit Lions culture is goal No. 1
Throughout the entire session, both Wood and Spielman talked at length about building the “Detroit Lions culture,” something that they both clearly believe has been missing.
“I have a vision that matches exactly what Rod and Sheila (Ford Hamp) envision, and that’s the only way this can work, because we’re completely in-sync of the direction of the culture of the building,” Spielman said.
While Spielman and Wood were scant on details of what exactly that culture will be, often using cliches like “proud to wear the uniform,” or “blue collar mentality,” Spielman knows, ultimately, winning over everything creates culture, and it’s his job to find someone who will make that happen in Detroit.
“Everybody understands the rules of playing in the NFL. It’s all about winning games and losing games,” Spielman said. “I think the fans should look for somebody that—that’s what the rules are. We have to be able to find that and identify that to give us the best chance to win games.
Wood admitted that bringing Spielman in—someone who understands the Detroit culture and fans’ intense hunger for a winning team already—played an important part in his hiring.
“It was a big part of it, for sure,” Wood said.
Sheila Ford Hamp’s enthusiasm convinced Spielman to take the job
Spielman said the timing just felt right to finally assume a job in the organization he’s followed for years following his playing time in Detroit, which ended back in 1995. But he also drew a ton of inspiration from team owner Sheila Ford Hamp, who apparently persuaded Spielman to take the job with a rousing speech.
“My last conversation with Sheila put it over the top for me,” Spielman said. “I woke up that next day—because, you know, life changes in 24 hours—after processing that information with her, I can’t tell you how excited she is and how bad she wants the Lions to represent the city of Detroit, to win a lot of games, and (build) something that everybody can be proud of.
“Like Rod said, she’s the one that put me over the top when I was deciding whether to do this or not. She’s fabulous. Great leader. I was already like, ‘Let’s Go!’ Felt like I had talked to a head coach before a game. Like she had given me a locker room speech, and I was ready to run through the hotel room door in Cincinnati.”
Spielman knows his own limits
There was a small campaign—mostly led by former Lions wide receiver Herman Moore—to get Spielman to win the general manager job of Detroit. Spielman noticed it, but wanted no part in it, because he recognized that’s not what he’s qualified to do.
“It’s not fair to Rod or Sheila on what they’re trying to build, because I’m not qualified to be a general manager,” Spielman noted. “I do know what works, and what doesn’t work by being 30 years in this business and traveling around to 32 teams year in and year out, and having a brother in the business and watching and learning and conversations with him.”
Spielman believes his years of talking, chatting at witnessing how general managers operate give him the current expertise to help the Lions build what they’re trying to build here in Detroit. And the job he’s accepted will utilize his own skills to perfection.
“The position that Rod showed the leadership to create is exactly what I envisioned, and I think it’s the best way that the Lions can utilize whatever talent I bring to the table.”
Spielman values delegation in leadership
Spielman was asked how leadership has changed since he was a player, and he answered quite bluntly: it hasn’t. He takes his views on leadership from a military background, most notably their ability to hire, delegate and stay out of each other’s lane.
“They’re pretty good at everything, but they’re not afraid to hire people that are great around them, great at one particular skill or whatever that is,” Spielman said. “They don’t ever feel threatened. And the other thing that good leaders do, in my opinion, you hire the people to do the job, then you go let them do their job.”
Spielman’s role after the GM hire is still undefined
Both Wood and Spielman were quite clear about what will be expected of the latter in the immediate. Spielman will be an integral part of the general manager and head coach search, participating in the remaining interviews of both positions, and he will even go back and speak with the three internal candidates already interviewed. After that, he is basically at Wood and Ford Hamp’s disposal.
“Think of it as a servant’s role,” Spielman said. “Whatever is needed to be done and however I can help the team in any way, that’s my job. And I am there just to serve. That’s my goal and that’s what I intend to do.
However, after the Lions hire a general manager and a head coach, it has yet to be decided exactly how that will change Spielman’s role and how the power structure of the organization will be set up.
“His role will probably go in directions I can’t even predict right now,” Wood said. “Because I think he’s going to be another valuable asset not only to me, but to Sheila and to the whole organization. In ways, it will grow over time, but right now the first job is to find the two people that we’re looking for, and then after that, the world’s kind of wide open to us.”
You can view Spielman’s press conference in its entirety here: