The Case Against Cracking on Mr. Ford


Big Lead Sports recently released their take on NFL owner rankings and Mr. Ford checked in at number 27. Here is what they had to say:

"Last year was great for the Lions. The previous 49 with the senior Ford in official ownership position, not so much with very few exceptions, and it’s hard to get the taste of the Matt Millen era out. The Lions were one of the feared franchises of the Fifties and early Sixties, but it’s been a while. The good news is that the team looks up as his role diminishes with age. (50 seasons, 42.4% win percentage, 0 Super Bowl Appearances, 6% of seasons in Final Eight)."

The Detroit Lions do not have one of the league’s great owner. Much of the criticism levied against Mr. Ford is well deserved – anyone Lions fan that survived the Matt Millen-era can attest to that. But when thinking of what makes a bad owner in a general sense, Mr. Ford doesn’t fair too poorly. Bear with me…

Is there anything worse than an apathetic owner? Probably not. Mr. Ford may get that label from some because of his inability to cut bait when an endeavor is fatally flawed, i.e. the Matt Millen regime. But is that apathy or is it loyalty to a fault? I argue the latter.

An apathetic owner is likely to view owning a team as strictly a business venture with little connection to the local market otherwise. This can’t be said about Mr. Ford. He purchased the Lions in 1963, well before the meteoric rise in the NFL’s popularity made owning a team a wise investment. Not only that, but he bought his hometown team. Perhaps you’ve noticed that the Ford name is a big deal in Detroit apart from the football team.

The other bad owner characteristic that immediately comes to mind is being cheap. Is Mr. Ford cheap? It’s hard to argue that he is considering the mountain of money the team has spent on high first round draft picks without a single holdout that lingered well into training camp. Yes, some free agents have left town but Calvin Johnson’s recent contract extension shows there is no hesitation in paying the money necessary to retain the game’s top talent.

Don’t get me wrong, William Clay Ford has no place among the ranks of Robert Kraft or the Rooney family as one of the NFL’s best owners but it could be worse. It’s certainly easier to say nice things now that the team is on the right track but Mr. Ford is no different as an owner now as he was the day he hired Matt Millen or fired Wayne Fontes. It’s just that the good qualities have finally poked through.