Former NFL Exec: Fords 'Don't Have To Sell' For Lions To Win

"They have to understand what it takes to be an owner."

The Valenti Show
November 05, 2019 - 5:56 pm

© Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC

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Everyone knows the story. Since the Ford Family purchased the Lions in 1963, the team has won a total of three division titles and one playoff game.

The leaders have changed over the years, but the results have stayed the same. Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia are the latest duo tasked with turning things around. So far ... not so good. 

56 games into his tenure as general manager, Quinn is one game under .500. 24 games into his tenure as head coach, Patricia is five games under .500. Quinn hired Patricia to help the Lions get over the hump, which raises the question of whether Quinn was the right hire in the first place. 

Former NFL exec and Radio.com NFL insider Michael Lombardi, who was an assistant to the Patriots coaching staff from 2014-16, joined the Valenti Show to break things down. 

"Ernie Accorsi picked the general manager," Lombardi said. 

Accorsi, former GM of the Giants and the Browns, guided Detroit's GM search after the 2015 season as a member of the NFL's career advisory panel. 

"What happens in sports is, people have to rely on other people for help because they don’t know really where to get information. They didn’t really interview many people for the (GM) job. They wanted to hire the guy, they relied on Ernie, and Ernie hired Bob," said Lombardi. 

And when it came time to hire a new head coach two years later, Quinn hired Patricia. 

"(Quinn) spent his career in New England, worked in pro personnel, he and Matt used to sit in the back of the room, they were together all the time. You knew when one of them got a job, the other was going to go with him," said Lombardi. "They’ve been a partnership ever since." 

In Detroit, that partnership has produced just nine wins thus far. It's why some fans are calling for the franchise to pull the plug, although it's unlikely that happens this soon. 

"That’s not the Ford Family way of doing it," said Lombardi. "They relied on the league office (to hire Quinn)." 

The more common grievance within the fanbase starts with the owners themselves. The Lions won't win until the Fords sell the team. 

"Look, they don’t have to sell the team to win," said Lombardi. "They have to understand what it takes to be an owner. … There’s always been a structure in Detroit that you never understood, whether it was (Tom Lewand) and (Martin) Mayhew, whether it was giving Matt (Millen) all the authority and not allowing really anybody to oversee it. It goes back to what they really want and how they want to run it, the vision of the company.

"Look, there’s a reason why most teams in the NFL lose. It’s because most owners don’t give you those five things that you need to have to be able to build a winner." 

According to Lombardi, those five principles are: 1) Use Common Sense, 2) Create Stability, 3) Believe in the right people, 4) Preserve the Pride, 5) Care more than anyone. 

"You have to have your own identity," said Lombardi. "You have to be the Detroit Lions. It’s one of the greatest franchises in football. It’s one of the things that you have to have. Your ownership group has to understand that it’s really important. You have to have common sense, you have to be able to create stability, you have to preserve the pride of the franchise." 

The Lions, one of the great franchises?

"When you talk about where football starts, the state of Michigan is incredible," said Lombardi. "It’s the whole thing – Thanksgiving football, football in Michigan, the uniform, the history of the franchise. Yes, they haven’t been to a Super Bowl, but there’s great history in that franchise. They’re one of the founding teams. To me, they’re no different than the Bears; the Bears have won.

"To me, it’s always (been) that case. They’ve had stability within the owner, they just haven’t made really good decisions in ownership. That’s ultimately the issue. There’s been too many people in the ear of the owner that have had influence, whether it’s been internally or externally." 

Unless that changes, the losing will likely continue.