The only people who know for sure are Lions co-owners William Clay Ford, Sr. and Bill Ford, Jr.
A few years ago, Ford, Jr. told me that he views the San Francisco 49'ers franchise as the benchmark of the way an NFL franchise should be run. The one constant in the 49'ers success? Walsh.
Walsh took over a moribund program in San Francisco -- much like the Lions have been -- and built it into a perennial contender. Building through the draft and padding his acquisitions through free agency, Walsh took over a 49'ers team that curiously had posted a 2-14 record and transformed it into a Super Bowl champion in just three years.
In 1986, Walsh put together what many experts believe to be the best draft of all time when he traded out of the first round and eventually selected tackle Larry Roberts in round two, fullback Tom Rathman, cornerback Tim McKyer and receiver John Taylor in the third round; defensive end Charles Haley, offensive tackle Steve Wallace and defensive tackle Kevin Fagan in the fourth round; and cornerback Don Griffin in the sixth round. All eight were starters who helped form the foundation of two Super Bowl teams in San Francisco.
Walsh spoke only to Fox 2's Dan Miller, on assignment for the Lions franchise and James Royer, a internet writer for the Lions official website. According to their reports, Walsh was on a visit to encourage Marty Mornhinweg and reportedly said that Detroit was on the verge of a breakthrough.
I don't believe it.
I think that the Ford's are fed up with what has taken place on the field and that they are consulting Walsh (who by the way is free to leave the 49'ers franchise without any compensation) on what it would take to build a winner in Detroit.
They are likely asking Walsh to evaluate the job that the two former 49'ers are doing and if they should stay the course or look to make a move to change their front office.
Here's hoping the Lions are able to retain Walsh in some capacity. The man is a proven winner. If somehow the Lions could pair Walsh with draft guru Bill Tobin, there is no question that the two of them could build a winner in Detroit.
Since Matt Millen took over the franchise two years ago, he's made one great move, luring Tobin out of retirement to oversee the draft. Tobin has re-stocked the Lions with some serious talent including Jeff Backus, Shaun Rogers, Dominic Raiola, Andre Goodman, Chris Cash, Joey Harrington and Kalimba Edwards.
Millen has made several personnel moves that are questionable. Gone are young talented players like Terry Fair, Jeff Hartings, Bryant Westbrook, Charlie Batch and Johnnie Morton. All these players could still be making a contribution to this team. Yet, they are all playing and most starting for other NFL teams.
Mornhinweg has seemed in over his head almost from the start. Despite his know-it-all demeanor, his on the field moves have belied his confidence. His 2-15 record at the helm of the team speaks volumes. Yet, that cannot be the only barometer. His quick trigger with young quarterback Charlie Batch, his questionable roster moves including the release of Fair, Morton and most recently talented rookie free agent James Mungro, leaving the team without a capable backup running back. His inability to get his team "ready to play". Even he admitted he was surprised at how poorly the team performed in Miami last Sunday in a 49-21 blowout loss.
Bringing in Walsh -- in any capacity -- would give the franchise the voice of a proven winner. Even if the Ford's are not going to sweep out Millen and Mornhinweg, Walsh could be a valuable voice for the Ford's especially Ford, Sr. He and Walsh are from the same generation. They both have vitality and knowledge and Walsh likely understands how bad Ford, Sr. wants to win, and quickly.
Even as a consultant, Walsh could be a stabilizing influence against rash and poor decisions like the Fair move, the Hartings move and the Morton move.
Sure, it would take a lot to get Walsh to leave the west coast on a permanent basis, but if anyone could do it, it would be the persuasive Ford duo. Their loyalty likely appeals to Walsh who has been a lifetime 49'er. Also, in a consultant's role, Walsh wouldn't have to leave the west coast permanently.
I don't think this was a social call. I believe that Walsh was here to talk business.
Lionsfans, let's hope so.