Detroit Lions special assistant to chairman and president & CEO Chris Spielman was on 97.1 The Ticket on Tuesday morning to talk Lions. Perhaps the thing that stuck out the most—and the thing that certainly garnered the most concern from fans—was when Spielman talked about how involved team owner Sheila Ford Hamp is in everything right now.
“People ask me all the time, ‘How much is Sheila involved?’ Well, Sheila has been involved by being in all these personnel meetings. She sat in two days of offensive free agency meetings and defensive free agency meetings,” Spielman said.
“I had a great office when I got here, and 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. Being in these meetings, giving her opinion, which is fun, and it’s cool to see the commitment that she has and that Rod (Wood) and (Senior VP of football/business administration Mike) Disner and everybody has.”
I get why there was some uproar about this. It goes back to the old narrative that Lions ownership doesn’t care about the team or they’re the reason the team is so bad. Therefore I can see why Lions fans would be nervous that the people they perceive to be the biggest issue are now more involved than ever.
I think there’s a different way to look at this. It goes back to Ford Hamp’s parents and it goes back to a lot of the complaints that Lions fans have had about the Ford family for a long time: ownership’s lack of football knowledge.
I’m sure you’ve seen it here on Pride of Detroit plenty of times. It’s a warranted complaint if there ever was one. You can’t have people in positions of power on a football team that don’t know anything about football and expect to have success.
But this is all about learning.
This picture says a lot. This says is that Sheila Ford Hamp cares about the success of this team. That’s why it should be no surprise that in her introductory press conference she talked about how she planned to spend her first year on the job getting to know the ins and outs of the franchise.
“I just want to understand and know better and then be able to make better, informed decisions on my own if things need to be done or changed,” Ford Hamp said back in June. “But I don’t have a hit list or anything right now. I want to be a learner to begin with.”
That’s exactly what she’s doing by sitting in on personnel meetings as well as the hiring process. She’ll almost certainly be in the war room on draft night and there will be plenty of meetings between now and then she’ll participate in.
The plan for the Lions this offseason has been all about collaboration. That’s why the Lions have created new positions for guys like Chris Spielman and have delegated general manager responsibilities to Mike Disner, John Dorsey and Ray Agnew. The Lions are also doing similar things throughout the coaching staff.
This is a total group effort with no egos. Sheila Ford Hamp wants to be a part of that effort, and that’s a great thing for a long-struggling franchise. These are the types of changes that shift franchises from bad to good. Lions fans should be ecstatic about this.
Is there a risk to having too many cooks in the kitchen? There can be. But at this point, we haven’t actually seen this group do anything yet. And after the last regime, having too many cooks in the kitchen working on the same meal feels a lot better than having one guy insisting he’s the best cook while pouring pepper all over everything.
And there may be concern with Ford Hamp having final decision, but that concern is overblown. Of course she has final say. She owns the team. I wouldn’t expect that to get in the way of anything that general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell want to do personnel wise. Spielman even echoed those thought when asked if the “football guys” are making decisions.
“Yeah, it has to be that way. It can’t be any other way.”
I would expect to see Sheila Ford Hamp’s face a lot more than we’ve seen any other Ford since the Lions were purchased by the family back in 1961. By that same token, expect Ford Hamp to give her administration and staff all the room they need to make the decisions they feel is necessary.
Again, these are much-needed organizational changes that are long overdue. It’s all a part of the phenomenal job this team has done in the building this offseason.