Detroit Lions principal owner Sheila Ford Hamp is committed and involved with her team. But it’s a different kind of commitment than her parents before her.
In 1961 William Clay Ford Sr became a minority owner of the Detroit Lions. On November 22, 1963, Ford took total control of the franchise after having been opportunistic and buying out the other 144 shareholders during a power struggle between partial owners Edwin Anderson and D. Lyle Fife.
In the 51 years that William Clay Ford owned the Lions before his death in 2014, he gained a reputation for being very loyal to his employees. Many coaches and front office personnel who have come and gone through Detroit have said how great he was to work for.
What was seldom spoken of was his influence on the team. While Mr. Ford did want the Lions to be winners, he wanted it on his own terms.
Now bearing in mind the fact that Mr. Ford did own the team he was well within his rights to make demands. However, from what has surfaced he seldom made any all-out demands to his general managers or coaches.
But he was influential in many player acquisitions or draft choices. The vision that William Clay Ford had of his Lions was to be like the exciting ‘Air Coryell’ Chargers of the early 1980s or the ‘Greatest show on turf’ Rams of 1999 into the early 2000s.
In other words, he wanted an exciting offensive team that could outscore opponents and put fans in the seats. The problem was that the front office couldn’t evaluate talent well enough to get the pieces necessary, the defense rarely got the attention it needed to be competitive, and no one could find a franchise quarterback to save their lives.
The results; the Lions had little real direction and almost no way to get where they wanted to go and mostly wallowed in mediocrity. So while the pinnacle of William Clay Ford’s reign would be the 1991 season when the Lions finished 12-4, won their only playoff game since their championship in 1957, and then were humiliated by Washington in the NFC championship game, the legacy he left behind was that of an inept franchise that could never get out of its own way.