(ALLEN PARK) - The people atop the Detroit Lions organization just don't get it.
They've shown loyalty to everyone inside their organization, but they've forgotten who the real owners of the team are; the fans.
The money from the fans' ticket purchases and their tax dollars makes it possible for Ford Field to exist and for Lions players, staffers and support personnel to have a job.
Since 1957, the last time a Detroit football team won a championship, the Lions organization has shown it's loyalty to front office staffers, head coaches, assistant coaches, trainers, scouts, accountants, secretaries and players, but never the fans.
Case in point: Matt Millen.
What were the owners of the Lions thinking when they hired an unprofessional, unqualified announcer out of the broadcast booth to take over their organization? Millen had never had any job in the NFL other than player, so how could he succeed in the complex job he was being asked to do? The answer: he couldn't, and he didn't. Millen has been a dismal failure at best and an embarrassment to the city of Detroit at worst.
So three years later, having won a total of nine games, the fans are once again being asked to be patient, "forget the first two years, Millen's got it right now."
You've got to be kidding.
The problem with the Detroit Lions organization is they do not have a clearly defined set of values that guide the way the organization works, so let me give it to you really simply.
1. Be loyal to the fans.
How do you do that? By doing whatever it takes to give the fans a first-class organization on and off the field. How do you do that?
2. By finding the best possible talent, giving them everything they need to be successful and then getting out of the way and letting them do their jobs.
3. Demand success. Anyone or anything that gets in the way of success should be removed from the organization. Getting to the Super Bowl should be the goal of everyone in the organization.
But now the party line we hear coming out of Allen Park is that firing Millen "isn't the answer to the problem."
Huh? What problem is that? Is the problem building a winning organization? Or is it fielding a competitive team?
You see, that's way too simplistic. What you're really saying to your loyal fans is that you are either unable or unwilling to mount a search for the person who is qualified to build a winning organization from top to bottom. What you're saying to your loyal fans is you're unable or unwilling to admit that you should never have hired Millen in the first place. What you are saying to your loyal fans is the $6 million owed to Millen over the next two years is more important than giving them a winning team in the front office and on the field.
What you are saying is you don't really have a clue as to how to put together a winning organization. That much is clear from the rumors of Detroit secretly speaking to former Lion player Rick Spielman, who is clueless as he teeters atop the Miami Dolphins organization and deposed former New Orleans Saints GM Randy Mueller.
That is more of the same nonsense that has caused the current 50 year mediocrity that Lions fans have had to suffer through. They deserve much, much better.
My question is why Detroit has never approached former Green Bay Packers executive vice-president and general manager Ron Wolf. Do you think Wolf wouldn't accept a call from William Clay Ford, Sr.? Wolf turned around a Green Bay franchise that had been mired in 25 years of mediocrity and turned it into an NFL powerhouse.
Prior to being tabbed to lead the Packers, Wolf actually worked in NFL front offices in Tampa Bay, New York and Oakland learning how to do the job correctly. From that experience were born Wolf's "nine stepping stones for building a winning organization" clearly outlined in his best-selling book "The Packer Way." For a team that has no clear cut philosophy on how to run a franchise, Wolf's leadership would seem to be a natural fit for the Lions directionless franchise.
Wolf's clear imprint on the Packers organization, which boasts back-to-back Super Bowl appearances including a Super Bowl win, six straight playoff seasons and four ten-plus win season under his tenure, can still be seen in that the nucleus of today's Packer team that is still competitive and fighting for a playoff berth.
The Miami Dolphins were smart enough to contact Wolf, who is retired and living in Maryland, about their front office situation. Wolf rebuffed the Dolphins saying he was not interested in being a general manager at this time. That doesn't mean he isn't interested in being involved in the right situation. Wolf was one of three former NFL veterans -- Tom Coughlin and Chuck Fairbanks were the others -- who were invited by head coach Bill Parcells to visit him in Dallas this season. For what reason?
"I gave 'em all assignments," Parcells said. "I wanted them to look at my team and tell me what they saw." Success breeds success. Parcells has Dallas on the verge of a playoff spot and has more Super Bowl rings than you can count, still he wanted and got, the valuable input of Wolf.
Wolf is a winner who knows how to build winning organization for the long term. He would likely jump at the chance, if the circumstances are right, of putting his imprint on a team that has struggled even longer than the Packers did. If nothing else, pick his brain, the way Parcells did and get valuable input on the front office structure and the football organization.
After nearly 50 years of mediocrity, what the Lions need more than anything else is a sense of how to build a long-term successful organization... and a sense of loyalty to the long suffering Lions fans.