The Middle Class & A Head Coach.

A few weeks ago The History Channel ran a brilliantly produced mini-series called The Men Who Built America. A large portion of the two hour conclusion was spent on Henry Ford’s historical contributions to our country. He was the visionary that saved American workers from the unscrupulous Robber Barons. At least that was my takeaway from it.

Along with providing safer working conditions than the Industrial Revolution, the generous wages Ford paid his workers were a foundational building block to what helped make this country what it was (still is?), a thriving and prosperous middle class.

It’s unfortunate that since the Ford family has owned the controlling interest in the team (11/22/1963) the Lions have struggled to maintain anything close to middle class success in the NFL. Not including this year, since ’64, the Lions are 299-420-13. That’s a winning percentage of .415, which is an average record over 16 games of 6.6-9.4. You can round on your own – either up or down – or do your own math. The point is, if middle class, middle ground, or mediocrity in the NFL is 8-8, well then it’s not unfair to say the Lions are a lower class organization based on victories. Their single playoff win under the Ford’s is also indicative of the team’s inability to be ‘middle class.’  

I surmise Henry Ford would be displeased. If the current Lions leadership has a vision, it’s certainly far more clouded than Ford’s a century ago.

I believe that with different owners, the Lions may have a better chance at being a robust NFL franchise.

Teams with the best ownership situations around the league – Giants, Steelers, Patriots, etc… – routinely have the most success on the field. It’s a downward assembly line of sound business decisions from the executive offices to effective play calling on the field. Even the smallest of details are vital to achievement. Winning and losing is cultural. It’s a habit. If you’ll have my head for saying the Lions engender a losing atmosphere, fine. It’s certainly not a culture of prosperity and success. Perhaps financially things are in the black, but the fans view of the team’s success is agonizingly buried in the red.  

There are teams that poorly managed, like the Arizona Cardinals, that every now and then with the right player in the right moment (Kurt Warner) can meet the expectations of every one of their fans. But bad business will breed bad results over the course of time. A season of prominence isn’t THAT difficult to achieve in most sports. Sustaining that success is a genuine mark of an excellent organization.

I doubt the Lions will be in the hands of new owners any time soon. Cities have run players, coaches and general managers (check out KC right now) out of town, but I cannot recall a city or a fan base that has a run off an owner of a professional sports franchise either due to vitriol or endless apathy.

Even with the Ford’s stamping the front of the checks, can it change? It’s unlikely, but with the right minds in place making the business and football decisions, customary success on the field is attainable. It’s up to the owners to make sure those positions are more than adequately filled.

You’re not wrong to lack faith in the current regime of Lions decision makers. Namely Lewand, Mayhew and Schwartz.  

The most convenient place to make a personnel change among that trio is probably the head coaching position. Will that happen? Again, unlikely, but 4-12 can be an initiator of drastic turnover.

If the Lions head coaching position were to open after this season, it would likely be the most sought after opening in the league.

Even if he has the confidence, or the audacity, that he could be Tony Romo’s elixir of inconsistency, Sean Payton would still be out of his mind to take Jerry Jones’ money to coach in Dallas. Jones would repeatedly meddle, and even on his best day, Romo isn’t Drew Brees. Payton needs Brees and vice-versa. That marriage needs to be kept alive.

We’ll leave the Saints job unavailable for now, but Philadelphia, Cleveland, Carolina, Kansas City, San Diego, Buffalo and a few others franchise could be in search of new head coaches. Questions at quarterback often go hand in hand with head coaching vacancies. Maybe Michael Vick will redo his ludicrous contract, perhaps Philip Rivers can turn the clock back a few years, and may be it’s a coaching thing in Carolina, not a Cam thing. I don’t think there are any unfair or unreasonable doubts about those situations.

If you were a coach whose decision it was to be unemployed (the TV guys), or an up and coming assistant looking for the right ingredients for you to be a success out of the shadow you may have long been in, wouldn’t a potential opening in Detroit be more desirable than anywhere else?

Nowhere else will you find a foundation with the steel tower strength as Matthew Stafford.

Sure, you, like many of us could have doubts about the men deciding who plays for you on the field, however, knowing that you have the most integral position in all of pro sports inarguably filled, the Lions head coaching job would be extremely appealing. Much more so than possibly having to be the step father to Brandon Weeden, or just about having to start from scratch via the draft. A draft which looks to be one where teams will have to reach for QBs, in a Christian Ponder type of way, rather than being able to secure your decade with an Andrew Luck or RG3.  

I admire you for having everlasting civic pride that keeps you invested in the Lions. I suppose it’s better than rooting for the enemy. But sometimes, the enemy runs a more admirable business, and that’s where I choose to put my interests. Places where my values and ideals more closely align.

You should check out The Men Who Built America. The parallels to today are quite astonishing.


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