So it appears that Detroit Lions vice chairman Bill Ford dropped by Tuesday's organized team activity and spoke to reporters for the first time in a year. Ford praised the team's direction under general manager Martin Mayhew but would not answer a question about either his future or that of coach Jim Schwartz "at this point."
That pass, made presumably in lieu of a statement that carried less than full support, is actually quite fair considering the team's situation in Year Five of the Mayhew-Schwartz era. It fact, it should be encouraging for fans of the franchise after the inexplicably long tenure it gave to former general manager Matt Millen.
The Lions have had three losing seasons under Mayhew-Schwartz and took a step backwards in 2012 after what seemed to be a breakthrough season in 2011. There would be more cause for worry if Ford had said Tuesday that Mayhew and Schwartz were safe and would have jobs into the 2014 season.
To be clear, Ford said that Mayhew has "done a terrific job of building a very professional front office" and added: "I do like the direction" of the franchise. He said that Schwartz is "a very, very good coach" but offered this polite qualifier: "I think Jim would be the first to admit that there have been times where he's learned on the job."
Again, that approach is the sign of a more functional franchise than the one that fostered Millen for too long. It sounds as if ownership has a reasonable and reality-based notion of its leadership. The Lions have talented men in both positions whose teams haven't had enough success. Mayhew and Schwartz merit support this season and further evaluation thereafter. Anything to the contrary would be a judgment made too soon.