As the Lions finished off an extremely disappointing season following a year in which the team went to the playoffs, plenty of blame is to go around and rightly so.
Everyone from head coach Jim Schwartz to general manager Martin Mayhew deserves some share of the blame and obviously it’s going to be debated as to who exactly gets more of it.
In addition to the blame game, a common target aside from the coaching staff and members of the front office is the Ford Family themselves which is totally understandable. Since William Clay Ford, Sr. purchased the controlling interest of the team in November of 1963 the franchise has just one playoff win and only a handful of playoff appearances. Certainly disappointing and frustrating to say the very least.
But out of all the blame that is placed on the coaching or front office, fans seem to be blaming the Ford Family for all the wrong reasons.
Time and time again you will hear fans saying the Ford Family doesn’t want to win, they don’t care about the team or they’re simply only interested in making money all of which couldn’t be further from the truth.
But how exactly do you measure an owners commitment to winning?
How about the monetary commitment to the roster?
Over the past two seasons the Lions have been been pretty much up against the cap meaning their roster spending is going to be extremely limited. In 2012 which saw a league salary cap at $120.6 million dollars the Lions had roughly $3.9 million available to them to use throughout the rest of the year. That number put them within the top ten of the least available funds underneath the cap ceiling as traditionally successful teams in the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and Chicago Bears had more money to work with.
In 2011 the Lions faced a similar dilemma in which they had to get themselves underneath the $120 million dollar salary cap. And in 2010, an uncapped year, the Lions were right in the middle of the pack in terms of total roster spending with a payroll of $122.9 million which was a number right in line with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But it doesn’t stop there when it comes to the financial commitment from the Fords.
According to a Crain’s Detroit article (by way of Forbes.com) the Lions have been continually LOSING money five of the past six seasons.
Forbes calculates that the Lions lost $4.6 million in operating income for the 2011 season, on revenue of $231 million. It defines operating income as interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.
That’s a decrease from the estimated $7.7 million loss on $228 million the year prior.
Detroit has posted operating income losses five of the past six seasons, according to Forbes, with the 2009 season being the outlier at $17.8 million in the black.
Furthermore, the Ford family is an estimated $275 million dollars in debt from the financing of their share of Ford Field.
So obviously the financial commitment is there from the Ford family and if anything they probably should be more fiscally responsible.
So what do you blame them for?
It’s simple, blame them for their handling of the front office and coaching personnel. For 20 years now the Ford family have been extremely loyal and in a sense irresponsible in terms of their hiring and firing practices. Wayne Fontes was obviously with the team for way too long during the 90’s while saying former team president Matt Millen overstayed his welcome is a complete understatement.
And when it comes to current head coach Jim Schwartz who hasn’t lost his job and probably won’t lose his job I can certainly see both sides of the argument in keeping and getting rid of him. Yes, out of the teams that have top ten draft picks in 2013 the Lions did the least in terms of restructuring their front office and coaching staff.
However when it comes to that list, the Lions were the only team who went to the playoffs last season which may give the Ford family more of a wait and see what happens next season approach with Schwartz and his coaching staff.
By no means am I saying though Schwartz deserves to keep his job. I wouldn’t lose any sleep if he in fact did.
But I’m still mad though, can I still continue to scream for the Ford Family to sell the team?
I guess you could but please keep in mind a couple of things:
- Boycotting going to games isn’t going to work. Sure the outcry and boycotts a few years back to get Millen out may have helped in the Ford’s ultimate decision to fire him, but it’s not going to get rid of an owner. The NFL has one of the most elaborate revenue sharing systems in which TV money, ticket sales and the revenue generated for licensed NFL products is almost equally shared amongst the 32 teams in the league. So this means when someone buys an RGIII Redskins jersey the Lions get a cut of those profits. These revenue sharing practices are also a big reason why franchises in Green Bay and Jacksonville exist.
- The Ford family has no reason to sell the team. It’s been well known that owning a professional sports franchise is more of a luxury than a money making venture. However for many of the reason’s outlined above owning an NFL franchise could be a huge money maker if a team is fiscally responsible. William Clay Ford is going to make his money from the Lions either way unless you totally stop watching the NFL altogether which more than likely isn’t going to happen.
- You can’t trade or release a team owner. Sorry guys it just doesn’t work like that.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that William Clay Ford Sr. is a good owner, in fact he’s far from it. The loyalty and personnel moves have been an obvious problem for him that has overshadowed the financial commitment he’s given the team and a big reason why the Lions have been unsuccessful during his reign. However save yourself the stress when it comes to making your pleas for new ownership. You’ll probably have an easier time trying to get an elected official out of office than you would getting the Ford family to give up the Lions.
So please place blame on the Ford family for the appropriate reasons.
h/t: Crain’s Detroit, ProFootballTalk.com, NFL.com, Forbes.com, Football101