Chris Spielman, Sheila Ford Hamp taking active approach to forging Detroit Lions’ rebuild

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett | Detroit Free Press

Detroit Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp and adviser Chris Spielman are taking an active role in the organization’s offseason football makeover.

Spielman, hired as special assistant to Hamp and team president Rod Wood in December, said Tuesday on “Stoney and Jansen with Heather” on WXYT-FM (97.1) that he sat in on the Lions’ college scouting meetings in January and Hamp was in the team’s more recent offensive and defensive free agent meetings.

“I had a great office when I got here,” Spielman said. “All of a sudden, I’m on the corner next to the exit door and I said what happened? Well, Sheila wants this office because it’s right in the middle of everything, which is awesome. And it just goes to show her commitment to what she wants and how involved she is in being in these meetings and giving her opinion, which is fine.

“It’s cool to see the commitment that she has and Rod and Dis (Mike Disner) and everybody have, but everybody understands that as far as the personnel goes, Brad and Dan, it’s on them. They got to sign their name to that.”

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The Lions restructured their front office this offseason, hiring Brad Holmes from the Los Angeles Rams as general manager and elevating Disner to senior vice president of football administration.

Both Disner and Holmes report to Wood, with Holmes overseeing player acquisition and Disner managing the salary cap and in charge of football operations.

Spielman played a major role in the searches that led to the hires of Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell, and the Lions have said he will wear a variety of non-specific hats going forward.

While league observers have wondered how much weight Spielman’s voice will carry on football matters, and some questioned whether his presence would deter top candidates from pursuing the GM job, Spielman insisted Tuesday that Holmes and Campbell will be the ones making football decisions.

“It has to be that way,” he said. “It can’t be any other way, but it’s in collaboration. Another important piece to this, obviously is Sheila and Rod. Sheila has to OK everything, and it’s been just kind of fun having her in the building, but Mike Disner’s the cap guy, and making numbers work. You know how important that is and how crazy that can be. The one thing, I believe, that you always want to keep in mind is that you don’t want to constantly mortgage the future. So you want to make sure that cap is steady and then when you have an opportunity to make moves, the moves make sense.”

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Hamp said last summer when she took over as controlling owner that she planned to be more involved than her mother, Martha Firestone Ford, in running day-to-day business of the organization, but that “I don’t plan to meddle.”

“I plan to be informed enough so that I can make good decisions at the top,” she said, noting she wanted to sit in on meetings with departments including football analytics as a way to learn.

Spielman, who left a broadcast job at Fox Sports to join a Lions organization that he played eight seasons for in 1988-95, spoke in generalities about the Lions’ pending trade for Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff, saying he had “great admiration” for Goff during his broadcast days, and that Rams coach Sean McVay “always saw the potential in Jared” as player.

The trade — the Lions are sending Matthew Stafford to the Rams for Goff and three draft picks — cannot be processed until the new league year opens in March.

Spielman said he was not allowed to talk about the Lions’ impending franchise tag decision on receiver Kenny Golladay, though he said he admires Golladay’s competitiveness and “ability to win the 50-50 ball.” The two-week franchise tag period opened Tuesday.

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And asked about the Lions’ biggest areas of need this offseason, Spielman said his theory on roster building in the NFL has evolved to the point that “I think you build from the outside in.” He said the Lions have “two really good young corners,” some talent at linebacker and need more depth on the defensive line.

“I think the communication between Brad and Dan has been outstanding,” Spielman said. “I’ve been around this every day now for the last two months. I’ve sat in the college scout meetings and the communication between the scouts and the ability to identify what type of player he wants and have that clear and communicated, and everybody have a voice and opinion on what type of player that is and sometimes there’s disagreements, but disagreements are good because you can hash out and always give your way. So between the pro staff and the college staff and Brad Holmes leading it and Dan and Brad leading the personnel meetings, it’s clear to me that everybody is on the same page with I believe productive disagreement at times.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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