Detroit Lions fire team president and GM after 1-7 start
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The one-win Detroit Lions, looking nothing like the team that reached the playoffs last season, fired team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew on Thursday and promised to bring in new leadership to put a consistent winner on the field.
“We are very disappointed with the results of the season so far and believe a change in leadership was necessary,” said owner Martha Firestone Ford, reading from a prepared statement. She did not take questions.
The Lions are an NFC-worst 1-7 under second-year coach Jim Caldwell, whose staff was not affected by the changes a week after he replaced some assistants, including offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.
Sheldon White, the Lions’ vice president of pro personnel and a 19-year veteran of the organization, will be the team’s acting general manager. Allison Maki, chief financial officer, will oversee business operations for the team. Both will report directly to Ford.
“We are beginning a national search for the best leadership to manage our team going forward,” Ford said. “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.”
Ford’s late husband, William Clay Ford, was often criticized for being too patient and loyal with the people in charge of running his front office and team. She appears to be taking a different approach, shaking up the franchise with bold moves that no one in the organization seemed to sense were coming this week.
The former executives took the fall for a franchise that is struggling after having relative success in recent years, including a 24-20 playoff loss in January at Dallas.
Lewand was in his 20th season with the Lions, and his sixth as president. He was largely in charge of business operations, including negotiating contracts, and helped the franchise build Ford Field, the team’s home since 2002, after it played at the Pontiac Silverdome.
“I want to thank Mrs. Ford and her family for the opportunity to serve the Lions organization and its great fans,” Lewand said. “I am particularly grateful to Bill Ford for allowing me to be a part of the unique vision he shared with his father to bring the Lions back to Detroit.”
Mayhew became the team’s general manager early in the 2008 season when the team fired Matt Millen.
Millen, whose reign led to one of the worst stretches in NFL history, hired Mayhew in 2001 to be the team’s senior director of football administration. Mayhew became assistant general manager in 2004 and was promoted seven years ago to replace Millen during the team’s 0-16 season.
“I’m disappointed because I wanted those guys to do well, and for the Ford family to do well,” Millen said in a telephone interview Thursday. “Anytime you make changes, you’re beginning another process.”
The Lions have failed to draft well enough to win and their other moves — or lack of them, such as losing defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh in free agency — have often missed the mark.
Detroit reached the playoffs in 2011 for the first time since the 1999 season, but the languishing franchise has just one playoff victory since winning the 1957 NFL title and that came in 1991 — a long time ago. Only the Cincinnati Bengals, who haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, have gone longer without success in the postseason.
“Our fans deserve a winning football team and we will do everything possible to make it a reality,” Ford said. “I also want to make it clear that we have no intention of giving up on this season. We expect our team to compete, improve and win.”
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