Report: Lions fire 2: Lions Fire Gm, President

Published: November 6, 2015

Report: Lions fire 2: Lions Fire Gm, President, Detroit Lions owner Martha Ford quietly walked to the podium Thursday at team headquarters in Allen Park and announced some of the biggest changes the organization has seen in years.

Ford wore a dark-blue dress – not quite black – and spoke quietly but firmly while she read a brief statement announcing the firings of the team’s top two executives, team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew, and named their respective replacements, Allison Maki and Sheldon White, on an interim basis. Ford said a national search would begin immediately for the “best leadership” to manage the team.

“We are very disappointed with the results of the season so far and believe a change in leadership was necessary,” Ford said in only her second public comments about the team since taking over from her late husband, William Clay Ford, on March 10, 2014.

Maki will be the interim chief operating officer. She joined the Lions in 2004 and moved up the ranks to senior vice president of administration and chief financial officer in April.

White will be the acting general manager. He was a Lions defensive back in 1990-92 and has been with the team 19 seasons. He has been the second-in-command to Mayhew since 2009, when he was named vice president of pro personnel.

Ford said no changes have been made to the coaching staff. The Lions own the NFL’s worst record (1-7) and are on a bye this week. Ford, 90, said she has not given up on the season.

“I want to assure our fans that we intend to identify and hire the very best leadership in order to produce a consistently winning football team,” Ford said. “Our fans deserve a winning football team, and we will do everything possible to make it a reality. I also want to make clear that we have no intention of giving up on the season. We expect our team to compete, improve and win.”

One Lions player, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he had not been officially informed about the decisions, said he wasn’t shocked that the changes were made.

“You’re not winning games,” he said in a phone interview. “Everybody’s scared when you’re not winning. Somebody, something has to change. There’s got to be a change somewhere. It’s sad day when somebody loses their job. But everybody knows the business, so you’ve just got to move forward.”

Moving forward might have been the theme of the day.

While her husband was known for sticking with his top personnel executives far too long, Ford indicated Thursday she will have less patience with failure. Under William Clay Ford’s ownership, four men served as GM in tenures that far exceeded their effectiveness: Edwin J. Anderson in 1964-66, Russ Thomas in 1967-1989, Chuck Schmidt in 1990-2000 and Matt Millen in 2001-08. Martin Mayhew took over for Millen in 2008, but he didn’t even last two seasons under Martha Ford.

Sheila Ford Hamp – the second-oldest of the four Ford children, all of whom have had the title of vice chair of the team – has taken a prominent role within the organization, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Bill Ford Jr. has not been actively involved.

Martha Ford and her children decided that Hamp would take the new role, according to the source. Ford Jr. would have accepted a prominent role, but the family decided otherwise.

Asked by WJR-AM (760) radio host Paul W. Smith on Oct. 9 whether Martha Ford was in charge of the Lions, Ford Jr. replied: “She is in charge. She absolutely is – and since my father passed away over a year ago, my mother is in charge, and she makes all the decisions.”

Smith: “Your mom is making all the decisions on the football team now?”

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