Lions fire president Lewand, GM Mayhew – The Detroit News
Allen Park — Ford tough, indeed.
Martha Firestone Ford, less than two years on the job as owner of her late husband’s football team, fired the Lions’ top two executives in a stunning announcement Thursday.
Gone are president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew, two long-time Lions front-office members who ascended to their posts the same day on an interim basis in September 2008 and officially late in December 2008 after the firing of Matt Millen.
Since Lewand and Mayhew took over, the Lions have gone 41-63, including 1-7 this season — the latest loss an embarrassing 45-10 drubbing by the Chiefs in London on Sunday.
The Lions made two playoff appearances in their tenures, in 2011 and 2014, but lost their wild-card game both times, and both times also followed up those seasons with stinkers the very next year.
“We are very disappointed with the results of the season, so far,” Ford, 90, said in a statement at the press briefing, after which no questions were taken. “I want to assure our fans that we intend to identify and hire the very best leadership in order to produce a consistently winning football team.
“Our fans deserve a winning football team and we will do everything possible to make it a reality.”
Since William Clay Ford took over as sole owner of the franchise in 1963, the team has had the same number of playoff wins as 0-16 seasons — one. William Clay Ford passed away in March 2014, leaving the franchise to Firestone Ford.
Firestone Ford announced that Sheldon White will take over as interim GM, and Allison Maki will become interim chief operating officer. Both, Ford said, will report directly to her.
Coach Jim Caldwell, hired before last season, will remain as head coach, though his status surely is on thin ice, given most newly-hired general managers prefer to hire their own head coaches. Ford said she was announcing no coaching changes; the Lions, prior to the London game, dismissed three coaches, including offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.
Ford said a national search for a new leadership group was to begin Thursday.
It appears doubtful White or Maki would be candidates for the full-time jobs, given the last time the Fords simply promoted from within, Lewand and Mayhew fell flat on their face.
White is in his 19th season with the Lions, and since April 2009, he has been vice president of pro personnel — holding significant clout in players the Lions target, including Rashean Mathis. Not long ago, Mayhew trumpeted White as a GM-in-waiting. He wasn’t available to the media Thursday; he is expected to hold a press conference sometime next week, before the Lions return to action against the Packers in Green Bay.
Maki became chief financial officer and vice president of administration for the Lions in 2015; she’s one of eight CFOs in the NFL. She joined the Lions from Ernst & Young, and also wasn’t available to media Thursday.
Mayhew, a cornerback in the NFL from 1989-96, joined the Lions’ front office in 2001, after earning his law degree at Georgetown and serving an internship with the Washington football team, and quickly became Millen’s right-hand man. After Millen was fired a month into the 2008 season — in which the Lions would become the first team ever to finish 0-16 — Mayhew was promoted, and his first big move was to take quarterback Matthew Stafford No. 1 overall in the 2009 NFL draft. While Stafford has worked out to some degree — how much depends on who you ask — drafting proved a downfall for Mayhew, who drafted 11 players between the 2010 and 2011 drafts, and none remain on the roster today.
Mayhew had a better track record in free-agent signings, recently bringing in the likes of wide receiver Golden Tate, and safeties Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo.
He provided a stark contrast to Millen, who wasn’t afraid to mix it up with the media — or even call players out publicly. Mayhew rarely spoke to reporters, but did talk in London, saying this season’s failure is on him.
Lewand, meanwhile, was perceived as a son-like figure to William Clay Ford, a friend of the family joining the Lions’ front office 19 years ago. As president, his specialty was the salary cap.
“I want to thank Mrs. Ford and her family for the opportunity to serve the Lions organization and its great fans,” Lewand said in a statement released Thursday night. “I am particularly grateful to Bill Ford for allowing me to be part of the unique vision he shared with his father to bring the Lions back to Detroit. I have tremendous respect and appreciation for the dedicated players, coaches and former colleagues who make the Lions and Ford Field special and wish all of them great success now and in the future.”
Prior to joining the Lions, Lewand, who holds three degrees from Michigan, worked as a lawyer, including a summer at the White House.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve this organization, this community and the Ford Family. I wish the team the absolute best this season and in the future,” Mayhew said in a statement released through the team.
“We thank them both for their many years of service to the team and our fans,” Ford said.
This is just the second time Ford has faced the media since taking over as owner, though in a chat with beat writers in June, she answered questions.
She’s proven to be an active owner, regularly attending training-camp sessions and NFL meetings.
Bill Ford Jr., a long-time decision-maker in the Lions’ front office, said in a radio interview last month that his mother is completely in charge, and on Thursday she made that clear.
Interesting, Bill Ford Jr., vice chairman of the Lions and executive chairman of Ford Motor Co., was nowhere to be seen again Thursday, backing up his statements last month when he said he’s taken a step back from his duties with the team since his father died.
Since this is a bye week, Lions players are spread all over the country.
One player, wide receiver Golden Tate, might’ve summed it up best on Twitter when he simply posted five emojis — all shocked.
Thursday’s developments were shocking, but telling, too.
Ford is in charge and, clearly, not afraid to make changes.