We don’t hear from Detroit Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp very often. Granted, she’s been more public-facing than her predecessors. She’s made it clear one of her goals since taking over in 2020 was to have more transparency and communication with the public. Still, Ford Hamp chats publicly with the media only a handful of times per year, at best, and that makes any public statement from ownership worth listening to.
This week, Ford Hamp joined Detroit Lions’ in-house reporter Dannie Rogers for a short interview about the team’s offseason plans, the progress they’ve made since she’s become owner, and the culture the Lions are building. I’ve transcribed the entire interview below, but you can watch the short four-minute interview on the team’s official YouTube channel.
Questions are paraphrased
At what point in Year 1 of Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes did you believe things were headed in the right direction?
“Sticking to the plan is often hard. You have the temptation to go, ‘Oh, let’s go out and get this player’ or ‘Let’s do that.’ Well, that’s just not the way we want to build things. We want to build things with a solid foundation for the future so that we are consistently a terrific team.
“Dan has brought in amazing assistant coaches who are terrific teachers. It’s just a joy to watch them in action with the players and how the players have responded to them. Even though we didn’t have the record we wanted this season, we got better. We got better every game. The momentum is just great and we just really know what we have now, rather than thinking, ‘Oh, maybe so-and-so is going to be better with a few more snaps.’ We’ve seen it. Now we’re in free agency. We’re sticking to the plan. Brad’s (Holmes) draft research, the scouts, the work they’ve all done is phenomenal. It’s so detailed and so thorough, I just have all the confidence that the right decisions are going to be made.”
Is there anything you can reveal about the 2022 free agency book behind you?
“No [laughs]. Other than I think we’ve done a great job so far. We want to upgrade in certain areas, but I think the main thing is (acquiring) players that love football, that want to play football, and that want to be here. We really want players that want to be here in Detroit playing for Dan Campbell.”
How much was culture change a priority going into 2021?
“Culture change was, first and foremost, in the (GM and coach) search process in the first place to back it up, and even how we ended up with Brad and Dan. (We) wanted it to be a much more open, accessible, collaborative atmosphere. What I find so heartening is—as I mentioned, we’re right in the middle of free agency—our players who are free agents want to come back here. Our players want to be here, and that’s a testament to Dan and his staff.”
What are the franchise’s goals in the next few months?
“I’d love to see us have terrific success in free agency, which I think we are having. That will give us a clearer picture of exactly what we’re looking for in the draft.”
How has your role evolved with the organization?
“I see my role evolving and changing in that I think we’ve got a great coach, I think we’ve got a terrific general manager. I want to know and be involved with them and their thinking and seeing how they work—and then you let them do their work. But I have every confidence in them, and I would never meddle. You’ve set a vision.”
A few interesting things stick out to me from the interview. Number one is her seemingly addressing Lions’ lack of free agency moves.
“You have the temptation to go, ‘Oh, let’s go out and get this player’ or ‘Let’s do that.’ Well, that’s just not the way we want to build things,” said Ford Hamp.
To me, it sounds like the team is fully embracing the slow-and-steady-wins-the-race approach: build through the draft and only complement through free agency. Perhaps expecting any huge splash re-signing was premature at this point in the rebuild, even after Holmes called this the “player acquisition phase.”
Additionally, Ford Hamp wisely clarified her role within the organization, promising to be involved but never meddling. In the past, Lions owners have been criticized for not caring enough about the day-to-day operations. But when Ford Hamp was involved in free agency meetings last season, some were concerned that she may interfere with the jobs of Detroit’s front office. She makes it clear here that there needs to be a middle ground between both extremes.
What stuck out to you from Ford Hamp’s interview?