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Lions Owner Stepping Down, Replaced by Daughter

The Detroit Lions have announced that Martha Firestone Ford, who took over after William Clay Ford Sr. died in 2014, has stepped down as the principal owner of the team. Sheila Ford Hamp will succeed her mother as the club's principal owner and chairman.

"It has been a great honor for our family to be associated with the Lions and with the National Football League," Firestone Ford wrote in a statement. "I am gratified that this family tradition, which my husband and I began almost six decades ago, will continue under Sheila's guiding hand. It is clear to me that Sheila will provide superb leadership and is fully committed to competitive excellence and community involvement."

"My mother has inspired all of us since taking on leadership of the Lions over six years ago," Ford Hamp said in a statement. "She has been a tireless leader to our family, our team and our community. Her smart decisions have given me a solid foundation to take the team forward. On behalf of the family and the team, I want to thank her for her countless contributions. I look forward to leading the Lions to excellence on and off the field."

The Ford family has owned the Lions since 1963, when William Clay Ford Sr. purchased the team. Firestone Ford took over the team following his passing in 2014.


28 comments, Last at 07 Jul 2020, 5:37pm

5 That would at least be…

That would at least be openly embracing tanking.

\He wouldn't survive the term. A Regional FOX brought him back to announce a U-M game, and viewers called and complained

17 This is off topic Will, but…

This is off topic Will, but I want to inform you of the status of the Ponder Super Bowl Champion project.  Currently the 2012 Vikings are 10-0.  Unfortunately, the team still has Percy Harvin, and Laquon Treadwell doesn't exist in the games' database, so I can't even draft him.  Blair Walsh is our kicker, and not as bad as one would think.  Only 2 of those victories came at a difficulty level below All-Pro; none at All-Madden, which will be attempted against the Packers.  Ponder has 30 touchdowns to 27 interceptions, while Adrian Peterson leads the league with over 1900 yards.  Robison has 25 sacks while Jared Allen has 2.  Ponder did have meltdown games against San Francisco and Washington, with 7 and 8 interceptions, but the Niners couldn't convert in the red zone, kicking 7 field goals, while the RGIII skins missed a field goal at the end of regulation, and then allowed Peterson to take over the game in overtime.  The 6-4 Bears await us in Chicago.

The weird thing is Ponder isn't the worst thing about the team; the secondary is god-awful rating-wise.  Harrison Smith is a rookie so he only has a 73 rating, and everyone else is either 74 or below except for Antoine Winfield.  Somehow I have the top rated defense, but I am doing it with mirrors.  It wouldn't surprise me if the Packers stole the division; we play them twice in the last six games, as well as the Bears and JJ Watt's Texans.

6 While it cannot be argued…

While it cannot be argued that the Lions have been one of the most moribund franchises in North American sports under the Ford's almost 60 years of ownership, is that due more to incompetence or bad luck?  The Fords have been generally hands-off with football matters (maybe too hands off, because they kept Millen around way too long) and they haven't really been cheapskates.  This is in contrast to the Synders and Culverhouses of the world.

8 The difficulty is their…

The difficulty is their legacy unmarred by success.


In franchise history, the Lions are 562-670-33, with 4 titles and one championship game loss. 

From 1930-1962, the Lions were 202-171-18 (54%), with 4 titles and one championship game loss. They were 6-1 in the playoffs.

In 1962, the Lions were 11-3 and were the 2nd best team in the NFL. They handed the 1962 Packers their only loss, and outplayed them head-to-head. They were basically the 1991 Cowboys to the 1991 Redskins. 1962 is the last non-Ford season; Ford purchased the team mid-way in the 1963 season.

From 1963-2019 (Ford era), the Lions were 360-499-15 (42%), with no titles or title-game losses. They were 1-12 in the playoffs. They haven't gotten past wild card weekend since 1991. (1992, I suppose, given the game was in January -- they've played two games in January in franchise history)


The Ford era represents a sharp and sudden change in their fortune, and it has persisted for 57 years. It's hard to attribute it to anything else.

20 Some of this is that the…

Some of this is that the Packers are really good, and at least one of the Bears or Vikings are decent at any given time.

If you had swapped the Lions for the Patriots, Detroit would have something like 4 division titles since 1991.

9 I can't see the blame goes…

I can't see the blame goes anywhere but at the feet of the Fords.

Not a Lions watcher but it appears they've been too loyal, patient or both.  They were coached for 7 years from 1978-84 by Monte Clark.  Then Daryl Rogers got 3-3.4 years and Wayne Fontes 8-1/4 and there's two decades gone by under coaches I couldn't tell you a thing about (although RaiderJoe probably can).  Then too much time for Matt Millen and well ... here we are.

In some ways I thought, Martha Firestone Ford had turned a corner for the franchise when she got rid of Jim Caldwell after four slightly above-average years. Put a bit of expectation on everyone. But then you look at the Patricia years and well ...

It's a difficult call. You don't want to be the Haslam Browns or Snyder early-years Washington changing HC every year but you do need to know when to cut losses with a coach. How you know is the great question. But I think it's probably easier now with rookie contracts that are four years and being able to start afresh in all directions.

10 The Patricia hire was the…

The Patricia hire was the last straw.

Belichick's good assistants don't work out. His is a tree almost uniquely impotent. Saban is the only guy who coordinated for Belichick who turned out to be worth a bucket of warm spit, and 1) he was a terrible NFL HC and 2) all of his success came more than a decade after returning to college after being at Cleveland Version 1. He was long removed from Belichick before he became the current Nick Saban.

The next guy you can kind of squint at is Schwartz, who was a scout for two years in Cleveland (Version 1) before staying with the team in Baltimore. He is a good to great DC and a mediocre HC. He's not as good as Caldwell.

That's the ceiling. That's the pinnacle of Belichick scions, who range from obnoxious (Mangini, McDaniels) to execrable (Crennel) to comical (Weis) to idiotic (BO'B). But they, at least, were all successful coordinators.

Then there was Patricia.

This moron wasn't even a good coordinator. He led the Patriots to the worst defense in SB history, a team who gave up 400 yards passing and a receiving TD to a backup QB, because he benched his best DB. This is the drooling asshole the Fords decided was their brain trust -- worth firing the best Lions coach in 60 years before, a man who is one of four black SB HCs in NFL history -- not a minor matter in the city of Detroit on both bases.

Jesus, the Fords.

11 It would be fair to point…

It would be fair to point out that firing Caldwell was Bob Quinn’s decision, not Martha Ford’s (as mentioned before, the Fords let the GM run the team and stay out of their way).  Also, Belichick benched Malcolm Brown, as I understand it, not Patricia, but I could wrong.  This is not to defend the Patricia hire, because it’s certainly been a train wreck so far.

23 I don't understand the logic…

I don't understand the logic behind stating that the head of a billion dollar business doesn't sign off on all major team decisions.  I believe that determining whether to fire or keep a HC qualifies as a major decision.  Would you fully outsource the HC decision if you owned a team? 

26 Oh please.  You honestly…

Oh please.  You honestly believe that bringing in a troubled player like Antonio Brown, Richie Incognito, or  Vontaze Burfict is purely a football decision with zero input from the owner?  Really?

27 You've moved the goalpost. …

You've moved the goalpost.  There is a lot of difference between input and making the decision.  My point is that if you want a qualified GM to work for you, the best way to fail is to pull rank and make the football decisions that you ostensibly hired him for.

Note that some owners historically do just that, Dan Snyder most prominently. 

You've also gone from the example of hiring a Head Coach to throwing large sums of money at players who have proven to be unreliable, at best.  Those two things are not the same.

If Bill Belichick wanted to pay Donald J. Trump 40 million dollars to be his new quarterback, then yes, Robert Kraft is within his rights to pull rank. 

25 > Also, Belichick benched…

> Also, Belichick benched Malcolm Brown, as I understand it

That's what everyone assumed, but now that I'm thinking about it, things would make so much more sense if it was Patricia and not Belichick playing the hardass

14 Oddly enough, the GMs from…

Oddly enough, the GMs from the Belichick tree have gone on to great success...Newsome and Dimitroff are the best, but Jon Robinson and Jason Licht have had some successes, as did Scott Pioli.  I think Bob Quinn has done a fairly good job with the exception of HC hiring, and I think it's too early to draw conclusions there.  Monti Ossenfort is very highly regarded, and I think Louis Riddick will ultimately get a chance to run an organization, as will Nick Caserio, in Foxboro or elsewhere.  The noticeable soft spot is Bill O'Brien, and that's to be expected.

Apparently it's easier to teach the economics of the game than it is to get coaches to be able to perform without a safety net.  Although Brian Flores looks promising, and Josh McDaniels will definitely improve from his first stint as HC.

22 William Clay Ford was…

William Clay Ford was a terrible owner. Not in the usual manner of meddling or being cheap but by making bad hiring  decisions and then being too stubborn to make needed changes. Russ Thomas remained GM for 15 years too long, Schmidt was GM or 7 years too long, Mllen was GM for 6 years too long. But since the GMs he hired were so bad any others likely would have also sucked

15 The lions are one of these…

The lions are one of these weird teams that I happen to see a lot of during my nfl watching almost entirely by happenstance.

My general thoughts: Ok, they made a big mistake letting Millen run the team for so long. Its an unpardonable offense. With that out of the way, the Lions of the 2000s seem more snakebit than anything else. 

They drafted high at a time when first round picks were prohibitively expensive. This led to the Stafford core to disband before it ever had a chance to develop. They've also been one of these teams that gets perennially injured year after year.

The other thing is - look Matt Patricia is a bad hire even without hindsight, but in reality this is a mistake that every team seems to make. If Patricia wasn't hired by the Lions, I feel confident someone else will because frankly, hiring the successful coordinator is the laziest way to hire and that's why team's choose it.

How much of this narrative changes if the Stafford core never gets broken up and they stick with second stint Caldwell? They may not win the sb, but I bet they get remembered a lot like the 2000s Broncos which isn't bad at all. 

21 How much were the early…

How much were the early retirements of the franchises two best players of the last 30 years were the fault of the Ford family?