More questions in Detroit

December, 22, 2008
12/22/08
11:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Talk about bad timing. On the day his team absorbed a 42-7 whipping from New Orleans, Detroit chairman William Clay Ford confirmed he plans to bring back the two men who hold his most important front-office jobs: Chief operating officer Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew.

But that's about all Clay and the Lions confirmed Sunday, and the lack of other details speaks volumes about the state of the franchise. Among the items Clay wouldn't -- or couldn't -- address in an interview with Mlive.com and a statement released later by the team:

  • Will Lewand and/or Mayhew return in their current jobs? Will their responsibilities be shuffled? Could someone be brought in to supervise them?
  • Ford said he will bring in another front-office employee, but that new hire might not have full power over personnel matters. With Mayhew heading the talent evaluation department and Lewand managing the business side, it's unclear where the new hire would fit in -- unless it is a new coach who gets some say in personnel. In either event, Lewand and Mayhew will conduct the search process for this employee.
  • Will coach Rod Marinelli return? Ford told Mlive.com that he didn't know yet. (Could the Lions' outcome Sunday at Green Bay really affect his opinion one way or the other? Is 1-15 any different than 0-16 when considered in the big picture?)
  • If there is a coaching search, Ford said he didn't know who would lead it.

Reading between the lines, it sounds like the Lions plan to assemble some sort of committee leadership system, one in which individual responsibilities won't be doled out until the new hire comes on board. But it's hard to imagine the Lions attracting many candidates when the owner is on record saying that the current general manager and salary cap strategist will remain on staff.

Even if an established coach/general manager like Bill Cowher were interested, it's doubtful he would take the job unless he could hire his own personnel department. And if you were an established coach like, say, Brian Billick, wouldn't you be wary of stepping into an organization where the front office has retained the ear of the owner after a season that can end no better than 1-15?

In other words, it was just another day of dysfunction for the Lions.

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