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A new culture is coming to the Detroit Lions

After completing her first full year as the Detroit Lions’ Principal Owner, Sheila Ford-Hamp has accomplished an astonishing feat. It’s something that Lions’ fans have not witnessed in quite some time. Heck, it’s arguable that it’s something they’ve never seen.

Ford-Hamp is bringing competence to Allen Park with the recent string of front office hires. 

At first glance, there will be fans and pundits who are quick to utter “Same Ole’ Lions” mainly because they’ve heard local radio stations beat that drum for decades. 

Honestly, there’s some truth to that, with countless stats to back up that claim. One of the most significant indictments against this organization is they’ve yet to manufacture more than one playoff win in the past sixty years. These few facts (along with others) make the Lions, for all practical purposes, the most futile NFL franchise ever. 

Despite that notion, Ford-Hamp’s recent work should be applauded by many. She’s recognized her strengths and weaknesses since taking over the team. Along with that, she’s initiated an impressive overhaul of the Lions’ front office by doing what many NFL owners fail to do.

She removed her ego out of the equation to do what’s in the team’s best interest. And she completed this by staying faithful to her word and loyal.

Sheila Ford-Hamp deciding to keep Rod Wood as team president is smart.

When Ford-Hamp took over as the Detroit Lions’ Principal Owner, there was a groundswell from fans and media to have her fire team President Rod Wood. Wood stepped into the role in 2015 after the dismissal of his predecessor Tom Lewand and General Manager Martin Mayhew.

Since Wood’s appointment, the Lions’ regressed quickly. 

From the premature firing of Jim Caldwell to the overdue firing of Head Coach Matt Patricia and General Manager Bob Quinn, there needed to be a scapegoat for the Lions’ woes.

Rod Wood was the perfect candidate for it. 

After all, Wood himself infamously said that football was not his specialty. 

“As most people have noted, I’m not a football guy; that’s not in my background,” Wood told Newstalk 760 WJR in 2015. 

“What I am pretty good at is hiring great people and letting them do their job. I would expect that we’ll do that by finding a great GM to lead the football side.”

By now, everyone knows that did not happen. 

Despite that, let’s be fair to Wood in this aspect. Quinn (and even Matt Patricia to a degree) had a lot of buzz surrounding their names upon their hirings. 

Now here is where Ford-Hamp factors into all of this. 

After taking over as principal owner from her mother, Martha, she didn’t cave into public pressure and fire Wood. And there was no reason to because Wood’s job is to oversee football operations on and off the field. He’s responsible for the significant changes to Ford Field and improvements in the Lions’ team branding. Additionally, before becoming team president, Wood was the President & CEO of Ford Estate, a private company that works closely with the Ford family. 

So it’s safe to surmise that Wood is a trusted advisor. 

This fact alone makes him the perfect person to be the Lions’ team President. And to Ford-Hamp’s credit, she didn’t fire him because he wasn’t a football guy. He had nothing to do with the Lions’ lack of winning success. 

Instead, the team hired a football guy to assist Wood in on-field personnel hirings. 

Bringing in Chris Spielman was a game-changer.

It may sound like a broken record mentioning this, but it has to be said. When Sheila Ford-Hamp fired Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn, she stated that the Detroit Lions would bring in football minds to help them with the organization’s next steps. 

One of those first steps was hiring Lions’ legend Chris Spielman as the Special Assistant to the Chairman (Ford-Hamp) and President & CEO (Wood). Spielman, a four-time Pro Bowler while playing for the Lions, is as much of a “football guy” as they come. Spielman assisted in the search and interview process for the Lions’ next general manager and head coach in his role with the team.

Spielman’s results in his role are providing great returns so far. After the Lions established their new GM, they turned their attention to hiring a coach who breathes football just like Spielman.

Insert Dan Campbell.

Just like Spielman, Campbell breathes a passion for football. Both demonstrated a similar love for the game in their Lions’ introductory press conferences. Heck, Spielman almost oozed his love for football in the same way Campbell did in his now-infamous presser. 

When Dave Birkett, a Lions beat writer for the Detroit Free Press, made a guest appearance on Woodward Sports’ The Morning Woodward Show, he alluded that the Campbell hire had Spielman’s fingerprints all over it. 

Since Campbell’s hiring, he’s assembled an outstanding coaching staff that is still growing. So far, the Lions hired Anthony Lynn (offensive coordinator), Aaron Glenn (defensive coordinator), Duce Staley (Assistant head coach/running backs coach), and Dave Kipp (special teams coordinator). Additionally, they’ve re-hired Hank Fraley (offensive line coach), Mark Brunell (quarterbacks coach), Mark DeLeone (linebackers coach), Dom Capers (senior defensive assistant) and Flint-native Aubrey Pleasant (passing game coordinator/defensive backs coach). Additionally, there are reports that the Lions have reached out to Pittsburgh Steelers legend Hines Ward to join the coaching staff. 

The decision to bring in Spielman to the front office is a real game-changer. Fans have Ford-Hamp to thank for that. If she and Rod Wood do not hire Spielman as an extra pair of eyes, there’s no telling if the Lions find a coach capable of assembling such a staff. 

Still, there’s more to pieces that Ford-Hamp needs to acquire to finish the revamped front office puzzle.

Mike Disner, Brad Holmes, and John Dorsey are a three-headed monster that Ford-Hamp is responsible for creating.

Detroit Lions fans sometimes view Mike Disner in the same boat as Rod Wood. Many blame both for the team’s lack of success. And this is without actually knowing their roles.

Nonetheless, Disner is the Senior VP of Football & Business Administration. According to the Lions’ team website, he “oversees the club’s analytics efforts and financial strategic planning as it relates to player acquisition and roster construction.”

Disner is also responsible for Brad Holmes becoming the Lions’ new Executive Vice President & General Manager. Sheila Ford-Hamp and Rod Wood both stated that Holmes was not on their radar initially. Then as fate would have it, Disner happened to watch an interview with Holmes in it, showcasing his football acumen. At that point, he reached out to Wood to share his opinion, suggesting that Holmes is the right fit for GM. 

Several weeks later, Holmes has returned to the place he once interviewed for a PR intern position. Holmes previously worked for the Rams as Director of College Scouting. And he didn’t come alone either. Shortly after his appointment as GM, Ray Agnew, the Rams’ Director of Pro Personnel, joined the Lions as Holmes’ Assistant GM. 

Last but certainly not least, there’s John Dorsey. 

For fans who don’t know, Dorsey can scout talent. His track record of building teams is impeccable. Over the past decade (and then some), he’s responsible for building the Packers, Browns, and Chiefs. He scouted (and drafted) Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, and Greg Jennings with the Packers. For the Chiefs, he did that same thing, grabbing Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Kareem Hunt. His most recent work is with the Browns. In Cleveland, he drafted Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward, and Nick Chubb. Furthermore, he was bold with trading for talent. He’s responsible for the Browns acquiring Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.

Dorsey is now the Lions’ Senior Personnel Executive. Of any football executive in the Lions’ front office, Dorsey has the most experience.

The Ford-Hamp era is crushing the “retooling” of the Detroit Lions.

For the first time in a long time, the Detroit Lions are the recipients of positive feedback, both locally and nationally. Since firing the old regime, Sheila Ford-Hamp has put her stamp on this team. 

It does not mean the Lions are going to be immediate playoff contenders. Heck, there is still a lot of work to do. The NFL Draft is on the horizon, as well as free agency. Not to forget, the elephant in the room is what the Lions will receive in value for Matthew Stafford. Reports have surfaced that Stafford has requested a trade from the Lions. It’s a domino that has yet to fall.

Despite all of the uncertainty right now, the Lions are poised for a profound culture change. Ford-Hamp is to thank for that.

Contact Kory Woods at kory@woodwardsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @koryewoods.

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