On Wednesday, Detroit Lions owner Sheila Hamp took it upon herself to address the media during practice to address how disappointing the team has been through 1.5 years under coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes.
While Hamp made certain to express her own frustrations with the lack of wins, her message was mostly positive. She unequivocally threw her support behind the current regime and stressed that this was going to be a long process because the Lions were not just rebuilding, but they had to tear down before that.
Given that this team has historically hidden their owners in the shadows, only to be heard from every few years, I wanted to break down my thoughts about Hamp’s gesture and what she had to say. Here are four thoughts I had about her media session from Wednesday.
It’s nice to hear from her
For decades, Lions fans would only hear from the owner via a polished statement every few years. Because of this, Lions fans have developed a narrative that the Ford family just doesn’t care about this team. They ignore fans, duck interviews, and just hang out in the corporate suite every now and then.
Without a doubt, Sheila Hamp has bucked this identity. From the beginning, she has been more forward-facing with the media, which goes along with the transparency identity she has worked to set throughout the organization.
From the beginning, it has seemed like Hamp has been more involved in the daily comings and goings of the football business, and it’s nice that she views media obligations as part of that job. Since taking over in 2020, Hamp has done full press conferences, several one-on-ones, and now just an impromptu media session in the middle of the season.
Now, this was just a four-minute session where she answered just four questions, but the gesture is nice.
Her appearance shows refreshing self-awareness
The Lions are 1-5 and it feels like fans are nearing a fever pitch of frustration. So, for Hamp to come out right now to address those feelings was a savvy move. She understands that in a time of anger, even just her presence shows accountability. She could have very easily hidden in the shadows until the end of the season or later. But she had no fear in facing questions, and, indeed, did this to try to send a positive message to distressed fans. That’s true leadership.
“I wanted to talk to you guys (in the media), because talking to you (is) talking to the fans. And I know everyone’s frustrated, I’m frustrated. But, again, I really believe in what we’ve got and what we’re going to be. It just takes time.”
We have quickly gone from “retool” to “complete teardown”
You may remember, when Holmes took over as general manager, he rebuffed any suggestions that the roster needed to be overhauled. Here he is in his opening press conference two years ago.
“Please don’t get mad at me if I don’t use the word rebuild, if I just continue to pivot toward retool. But I do think that there are some building blocks on this defense currently. Obviously, we will address that side of the ball just like we’ll address the offensive side of the ball. There is no area that we won’t work to improve in. But I do think that there are some good, young talented pieces that are still in their phase of developing.”
Now here’s Hamp from Wednesday:
“This, I would say, was a teardown, and then a rebuild. We really had to take it down to the ground level. And it’s been not only on the football side but across the organization. We’ve put in a lot of new talent at the top.”
Was Holmes just being modest during his press conference, protecting the players that were currently on the roster and making sure he wasn’t projecting a couple of poor seasons ahead? Or have the Lions shifted talking points now that the first two years of this regime have not produced results? It’s probably a little of both.
Hamp clearly values organizational stability
Back in 2019, Hamp was part of the ownership statement as to why—despite two years of no results—Matt Patricia was getting a third year. In it, she and her mother stressed the importance of patience and seeing through an entire plan:
“We also believe that the most successful teams in our league have a long-term plan, stability in leadership and exhibit patience to follow their plan. To that end, we are committed to year three of Coach Patricia’s plan.”
Her statements on Wednesday are very similar to those given three years ago:
“But it is a process and that’s what it is. It’s hard, and it’s really hard to stay disciplined. No one hates losing more than I do, than my family does, but it’s just–we’ve just gotta go through it.”
On one hand, I think there is certainly something to be said about staying true to the plan despite hiccups. No plan in life goes smoothly without its hitches, and sometimes giving up on that plan too early can prove to be a costly mistake.
One has to wonder, though, how much patience is too much patience. William Clay Ford often held onto general managers and head coaches far longer than they deserved, and statements like this may have some believing Hamp will carry on that same bad habit.
That said, Hamp did terminate Patricia and company in their third season, so her patience certainly does seem to have a reasonable limit.