Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Team president Tom Lewand mentioned three organizations when discussing the new leadership: Chicago, Green Bay and Baltimore. All three have traditional general managers with final say over all football decisions. The coaches in those organizations don't necessarily report to the general manager, but the general manager has higher influence within each organization. That speaks to the trust the Lions have placed in new general manager Martin Mayhew.
I've heard a lot of good things about Mayhew, and I think ultimately this is the best answer he gave when pressed about his association with former president/general manager Matt Millen: "Judge me by what I do and don't judge me by who my friends are or how I got here. Judge me by my actions. To me -- at the end of the day -- that's what it's about. It's about what happens here."
Coming in a close second was this response when asked what he knows about winning: "My high school coach is in the Hall of Fame in Florida. My college coach is Bobby Bowden. My first coach was Marv Levy. My second coach was Joe Gibbs, My third coach was Sam Wyche and my last coach I ever played for was Tony Dungy. Those are the only coaches that I have ever known or been around. The Buffalo Bills were my first organization and the Redskins were my second. So I have been around winners and I know what winners do. I feel very confident in my ability to turn this organization into a winner."
Mayhew spoke about his vision for the roster -- saying it needs to get bigger and tougher -- especially on the defensive side. But more important was his discussion about the need to match his thoughts on personnel with that of the Lions' next coach. He said he will ask every coaching candidate how he would incorporate the Lions' current players into his system. "I think when you make a change like this, I think you look at who you have and the most important thing when you hire a coach is who you can keep. What you don't want to do is scrap or get rid of good players because they don't fit your system anymore." To me, that is precisely the problem with promoting from within after an 0-16 season. How much could be worth preserving from this team? Mayhew mentioned the Lions' mistake of trading cornerback Dre Bly because they didn't think he fit in a cover-2 defense. But do you want to operate from a position of correcting past mistakes? Or is it better simply to start anew?
It sounds as if Lewand and Mayhew will handle the initial round of interviews for the head coaching job, beginning this week. When the list is narrowed, the remaining candidates will meet with owner William Clay Ford.
Right or wrong, it doesn't appear the Lions are going to operate in a way that will endear themselves to fans. At several points Tuesday, Mayhew said he wants to pull back on information flow to the public because he believes the team has provided too many details in recent years, insight that opposing teams have used against the Lions. In general, you can't run your operation based on the whims of you fan base. But when you have almost 11,000 unsold tickets for your final regular-season game, it needs to be a consideration. In the future, Mayhew and Lewand would be well-served to offer vague answers if they wish but never admit in so many words that they're holding back information.