DETROIT -- When the boss issues an edict, employees tend to listen or hunt for new jobs. So when Detroit Lions team president Tom Lewand sat down with his bosses following the team's plummet from a potential playoff berth to a 7-9 finish, there was a message given.
The Fords -- current owner Martha Ford and her late husband, William Clay Ford Sr. -- wanted one thing. They wanted to win. This was before the Lions hired Jim Caldwell to replace Jim Schwartz and before they made any of the roster moves they believed would help a woebegone franchise turn into a consistent winner instead of one that has made the playoffs once this century.
"When we sat down with the Ford family at the end of last season, the first thing out of their mouths, Mr. and Mrs. Ford, was how do we win the NFC North in 2014 and take it from there?," Lewand said Wednesday at the Detroit Economic Club's Lions luncheon. "That's where it starts. That's what the mission is. That's the goal that everyone in this organization has.
"That's why we hired the coach that we have, have the staff around him and the team around them that we have. We are focused on that goal of being a championship football team and doing the necessary things to get there."
This is similar to what is said every year by every team, owner and general manager, but there seems to be a motivation behind this season. Since the team fired Schwartz the day after the 2013 season ended, this has been a constant.
Win. Win now.
It is why the Lions brought in Golden Tate to complement Calvin Johnson. Besides being a legitimate No. 2 receiver, he won a Super Bowl and has been a natural, passionate leader anywhere he has been, from college at Notre Dame and then to Seattle and in his short time in Detroit. They brought in James Ihedigbo, who also won a Super Bowl, and coaches who have coached in the championship game.
This, it appeared, was their attempt to change the vibe surrounding the Lions throughout the Super Bowl era.
"That's one thing that this locker room has, is they have leaders who want to get better every single day," Tate said at the luncheon. "They have 12-year veterans like Dom [Raiola], we have coach Caldwell coming in, who has been there, done that, and he's won a championship and knows what it takes.
"So I think the guys in our locker room and the people in the city are buying into what coach is saying and the next thing you know, we'll be winning games. I think we need to get to the point where we expect to beat the Green Bay Packers."
The Lions actually split with the Packers last season, beating a Green Bay team without Aaron Rodgers in Detroit on Thanksgiving and losing to them in October. The losses in Wisconsin have been a yearly ritual since the early 1990s without Johnson.
Tate seems to believe Detroit has the talent to win the division if the Lions can do what they were unable to last season and so many other seasons in their history -- get out of their own way when it matters the most.
"It's up to us. Whatever we put into it is what we're going to get out of it and with that being said, the only team that can beat us is us," Tate said. I hope that motivates us to show up every single day and work hard. For the last 20 years, Detroit's had a lot of talent. We just haven't put it together.
"Thank you for being very patient, fans, it's going to change now. But it's up to us. That's the great thing about it. We're either going to beat ourselves or beat the other team."
Motivational speeches like this are part of the reason the Lions pursued Tate, combined with his on-field ability. He has won before. He is able to rally players around him. He is pretty much what the Lions' owners have asked for.
He's a guy who has won before and is trying to become a rarity -- a Lions free agent who comes to the team and is actually able to affect change that hasn't been able to happen before.