Let’s be honest. It starts at the top. If you don’t pick good people, you don’t get good people. William Clay Ford is a fine man, but his football judgment is flawed and questionable. For more than two decades, he left one man in charge, Russ Thomas, and Thomas never knew how to build a winner. Most other owners would have canned Thomas years before he retired.
Then Ford put Chuck Schmidt in charge. More of a numbers guy than a football guy, Schmidt never really got the hang of it.
And then came Matt Millen.
Think what you will about Millen, but it’s not his fault that he got hired. That is on Ford. When you look around at other historically successful franchises – the Dallas Cowboys, the San Francisco 49ers – you see hands-on football ownership, men who are not satisfied with losing or who seem to know a thing or two about football itself.
Ford often has treated this team as a business investment that rolls along on its own inertia. The bills are more than paid. He says he wants a winner, but it doesn’t seem to bother him much when, year after year, he doesn’t have one.
Until that changes, you are going to see that lethargy roll downhill. It rolls to the GM’s office, to the coach’s office and to the locker room. It is the reason so many Lions do better when they leave and why so many good players get bad when they pull on this uniform.
In football, everything starts under center. But in management, it starts at the top.