Carlos Monarrez | Detroit Free Press
I have a question for Chris Spielman. Apparently it’s the same question many of us have.
How involved is Detroit Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp with the team?
Well, Spielman answered that exact question and spilled the beans about Hamp’s involvement Tuesday on “Stoney and Jansen with Heather” on WXYT-FM (97.1). The short answer: A lot.
“People ask me all the time, ‘How much is Sheila involved?’ ” said Spielman, a special assistant to Hamp and president Rod Wood. “Well, she’s been involved by sitting in on all these personnel meetings, two days of offensive free agency meetings and defensive free agency meetings.”
Is Hamp is preparing to run workouts for free-agent cornerbacks? Let’s see that backpedal!
In fact, Hamp is so involved that she nearly kicked Spielman out of the building in order to get a better vantage point.
“I had a great office when I got here,” he said, “and all of the 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.
“It just goes to show her commitment to what she wants and how involved she is and being in these meetings and giving her opinion.”
This is the scary part for Lions fans. Hamp being involved is in one thing. But giving her opinion is something else entirely.
Spielman made sure to add that ultimately personnel decisions are up to general manager Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell. But it’s a concern nonetheless when an owner is in a meeting and offering opinions, especially when the top guys are new in their jobs.
Remember Martha Ford’s famous “I love Jim Caldwell” comment? It might have influenced Bob Quinn’s decision to keep Caldwell around. Are you really going to fire someone your owner says she loves?
Yeah, I know Hamp owns the team and can do anything she wants. But just because she can doesn’t mean she should. Not if she wants to be a good, successful and responsible owner. She should let the people she hired do their jobs and make their decisions freely without looking over their shoulders, wondering whether she will approve.
To be clear, I don’t think this is what’s happening. I don’t think Hamp is overstepping. She took over June 23 as principal owner. It seems like she’s trying to learn as much about every aspect of the business as she can, and especially aspects she’s less familiar with, like what goes into making personnel decisions.
This is probably why Hamp hired Spielman, who can be a trusted adviser.
I don’t know Hamp extremely well. We have yet to schedule our mixed-doubles tennis match (clay courts only, please) or lunch at the Cotswold Cafe. But in the time Hamp has been closely involved with the team since her mother took over in 2014, I’ve learned more about her than her mom, her brother and her father combined, who were the team’s previous three people in charge of running the organization’s day-to-day business.
Hamp seems like an engaged, enthusiastic and present owner. I’ve often seen Hamp and her husband, Steve, mixing with fans at Ford Field events. She has met with reporters informally in order to forge better relationships. In news conferences, she carries herself confidently but also comfortably. And I think guiding the Lions to success really means something to her. I’m sure she knows her legacy is attached to how successful she is in leading this team back to prominence.
To that end, I can see why the Lions are taking the approach of adding veteran, successful advisers like John Dorsey and Dom Capers. They can help offset the inexperience of the coaching and personnel staff. Of course, there’s always the concern that there are too many cooks in the kitchen. But if there’s a clear structure and process for distilling input, experienced voices can be a strong asset.
I’m not worried Hamp will fall victim to hubris after sitting in on a few meetings and hijack the draft board. In time she might not feel the need to be so heavily involved, especially as she gains confidence in this regime.
But inexperience is a theme that runs through the Lions at some of the highest positions, starting with the owner. It’s a good thing Hamp recognizes that and is committed to making sure she understands how the team will be assembled and how that process works.
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.