William Clay Ford Sr. speaks out

Thursday, June 25, 2009

John Niyo at detnews.com has a fairly lengthy interview with Lions owner William Clay Ford Sr., Ford's first since the firing of team president Matt Millen early last season.

Among the interesting tidbits:
* Ford did get input from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after Millen's firing regarding a new front office leader. But he went with Millen holdovers Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand because he knew them, liked them and found them qualified.
* An admission that both Millen and former Coach Rod Marinelli didn't have the necessary experience going into the job.
* That Ford relied on Millen to make the decision to hire both Marinelli and Steve Mariucci, but new Coach Jim Schwartz was his call and his alone.
* That Ford's son, Bill Ford's, public declaration that Millen would be fired were he in charge, days before Ford Sr. actually fired Millen, did not influence the decision. In fact, the elder Ford told Niyo, he had heard his son's dissatisfaction with Millen multiple times -- days before he went public with it; weeks; months; and years earlier.
* That Ford has never directed a coach or team executive to play or not play a player.
* That the supposed dispute over remaining money to be paid to Millen is resolved.
* That Ford feels for the fans, praises those who remain loyal to the team; understands those who have finally bailed out; and that he actually listens to the fan complaints.

A lot of meaty stuff here, obviously.

Ford's been psychoanalyzed in the past by armchair pundits. He certainly has a different way about him, and it shows through in the interview. He pays lip service to wanting to win and doing what it takes. But then he casually explains away sticking for years with Millen despite his abysmal failure at all levels, with the entire world including his son howling at him to make the necessary change.

We hear Ford casually talk about blowing off the NFL Commissioner's attempted help on not making another Millen mistake, and why his grand search for a way to turn around 0-16 ended at the end of his nose, with the front office guys right in front of him. (Don't get me wrong; that might actually work out. That still doesn't make the lack of a real examination of the situation or a search outside of a 31-97 franchise any less maddening.)

I continue to think Ford doesn't have a clue how to win, and the bottom line of why it hasn't happened for decades is it's simply never been high on his priority list. We can only hope he's stumbled into the right people who can make this successful in Mayhew, Lewand and Schwartz.

They're talking about it in The Den!