Lions Front Office Remains the Same

By: AP
By: AP

DETROIT (AP) -- The Detroit Lions did the easy part, firing Rod Marinelli.
They whiffed on the difficult task, fixing the franchise.
Team owner William Clay Ford announced Monday he was letting Marinelli go and promoting executives Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew.
Marinelli acknowledged his firing was inevitable after he became the first coach of an 0-16 team in NFL history. But the front-office promotions came as a surprise to many.
After all, when the team finally fired team president Matt Millen in September, Ford promised the Lions would "undergo a thorough and comprehensive evaluation of our entire football operation and put together a plan that we believe will transform this team into a winner."
Yet it took less than 24 hours after the Lions' historic 16th loss to determine the front office should remain intact.
The only non-coach who lost his job was assistant director of pro personnel Dave Boller, who was in his second season with the Lions.
That means, essentially, the same people who contributed to the team having the NFL's worst record over an eight-year period will continue to lead the Lions.
Lewand might make a great team president with his ability to navigate salary-cap matters and network with coaches and executives in the league.
Mayhew could become a fabulous general manager and his first move was brilliant, acquiring first-, third- and sixth-round picks from Dallas for Roy Williams, his expiring contract, and a seventh-round selection.
But what happened to promise of evaluating the football operation?
Neither Mayhew nor Lewand would elaborate on the past during a news conference Tuesday. But they didn't have much to say about the future, either.
"Where we've hurt ourselves in the past is by talking too much," said Mayhew, adding the team will build through the draft.
He would not say what position the Lions would address first. Quarterback, certainly, is a glaring need.
"We need to be more physical and faster," Mayhew said. "We need tougher, smarter guys."
It will take a leap of faith for fans to believe Mayhew and Lewand will get it right this offseason, taking advantage of five picks in the first three rounds of the draft, signing solid free agents and trading for capable veterans.
Detroit will have the No. 1 pick in the draft, and quarterback is a glaring need.
Will the Lions be afraid to take Georgia's Matthew Stafford or Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, if they enter the draft, because of first-round busts Joey Harrington, Andre Ware and Chuck Long, and the fact they're not a star QB away from being competitive?
Taking Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith, whose Sugar Bowl suspension might end his college career, might not be a sexy choice. The Miami Dolphins, though, turned around their fortunes in part this year because they drafted Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long first overall.
A lot of attention will be paid to who Detroit chooses with the No. 1 pick. But what the Lions do with the 20th pick, their second-round selection and a pair of third-round picks will go a long way in shaping the future.
Before then, the Lions will have an opportunity to fill some of the many holes in free agency. They'll do it with some of the same people who traded standout defensive tackle Shaun Rogers to Cleveland for shoddy cornerback Leigh Bodden.
Ford was so upset Detroit missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record in 2000 -- after making the playoffs in six of nine years -- he basically started over.
Apparently, going 0-16 this year and 31-97 over eight seasons didn't embarrass him enough to do it again.


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