Thursday, September 25, 2008
Lions' new brain trust puts focus on winning the next game
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Beat the Bears.
That's the stated goal of the two executives now in charge of running the Detroit Lions in the wake of Matt Millen's dismissal Wednesday.
Executive vice president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew say they want to focus the franchise on winning its next game against Chicago.
Lewand will likely be back next year for a 15th season with the Lions to help with salary-cap issues and other business matters.
Mayhew wants to be retained, but one of Millen's first hires insisted he doesn't view the opportunity as an audition.
"I haven't really thought of it like that," he said. "The way I look at it, we have to beat the Bears. Right now, I'm the general manager. I'm focused on getting our guys ready and our coaches ready to beat the Bears."
Detroit's season seems to be over after getting routed in its first three games, but Lewand and Mayhew told beat writers Thursday a lot can be done to salvage the year and answer critics.
The Lions have a bye this week before hosting the Bears.
"The public perception will be positive when we beat the Chicago Bears in 10 days," Lewand said.
Millen turned a lackluster franchise into a laughingstock during seven-plus years as team president. The Lions were an NFL-worst 31-84 since 2001 -- one of the worst stretches in league history -- and are 0-3 this year. This awful start drops them to an NFC-worst 10-25 under coach Rod Marinelli.
"The reality is, we have 13 games to play and we're two games out of first place," Mayhew said. "We can't play the way we've played so far. But that's not scary to me being two games out of first place with 13 games left."
Millen added Mayhew, a former Washington Redskins teammate, to the front office soon after the Ford family lured him out of the broadcast booth to run the franchise.
"Matt and I have different viewpoints on a lot of things about football, but I'm a Millen guy," Mayhew said. "I've known him for 18 years. We won a Super Bowl together.
"Yesterday was a different day for me. It was a sad day. It was a good day. ... It was everything."
Lewand has done a lot for Lions ownership for more than a decade, including guiding the construction of Ford Field, and might as well be known as "Teflon Tom" because it would be stunning if he's not working for the team next year and beyond.
The University of Michigan graduate, however, is not focused on his future in the organization. He is trying to improve its culture right now.
"Our job that we started yesterday is to try to create the kind of organization that can work together toward a common goal," Lewand said. "That's really easy to say. It's extremely difficult to do."