Rod Wood hired as Detroit Lions Team President


Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The very short wait is over and the Detroit Lions have hired their new Team President.  Rod Wood was named team president, announced by the Lions this afternoon.  Many fans were immediately enraged at the hiring due to it being so sudden after the firing of Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew only a few short weeks ago and due to it being what would be considered an ‘internal hire’.  Another reason this hiring will likely be viewed as controversial by fans is Wood’s lack of ‘football’ experience, as his background is exclusively in business.

So who is Rod Wood?  Most recently he was managing the Ford family’s investments as the CEO of Ford Estates, prior to that he was the VP of wealth management for Wilmington Trust Co.  So the short answer to that question is that Wood is a businessman with an almost exclusively financial background.  Not just finances, but investments, which is the important part of the hiring.  Investment management requires the weighing of risk and reward, more than just plugging in numbers and counting beans.

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The Detroit Lions’ previous president, Tom Lewand, had been with the team on the football side, serving as the executive VP and COO.  The hiring of someone without a football background is likely deliberate on the Fords’ part, looking to add a perspective from someone outside the business.  So while Rod Wood is definitely qualifies as an ‘inside hire’ meaning that he worked for the Fords, he isn’t a Detroit Lions internal hiring as prior to today he had no impact on the Detroit Lions as an organization, outside of the aforementioned investments for the family.

This isn’t the first time an NFL team has went outside of the realm of football for their business side management.  The Seattle Seahawks hired Peter McLoughlin, who had only worked in sports for a few years (none of which in football) after spending more than 20 years working for Annheiser Busch.  Nor is it the first time a family run team hired someone internally, as done by the Giants (Mara), Steelers (Rooney), and Vikings (Wilf).  So while the hiring of Rod Wood acts as a departure from the norm in that he has little football experience, it’s an almost universal trope to hire someone from within the organization to the position of president when one is needed (The list is too long to include).

So is it a good hire?  That’s the real question.  Many will be quick to judge since it wasn’t the dramatic departure they were hoping for, but Rod Wood is going to be blazing his own path and there isn’t enough history to really build a significant trend off of.  His lack of NFL front office experience could end up being a boon, as it was for McLoughlin, but it could very well end up being a hindrance.  More notably, the hiring of someone with a strictly business background puts the importance of the General Manager hiring even more at the fore.

To that end, the team has made the groan worthy decision to form an ‘advisory board’, which consists of the aforementioned Rod Wood and the rest of the Ford family.  The only saving grace here is that they’ve decided to use select members of the NFL’s Career Development Advisory Panel as well to assist in the search for a new General Manager.  This step is the one that really matters, as such a tool was not used in the previous General Manager “search”.

Martin Mayhew was often considered to be a hand picked hire by team owner William Clay Ford Sr.  Maligned Matt Millen likes to take credit for the hiring of Mayhew, claiming that he pleaded his case before Ford prior to his own firing.  Regardless of the circumstances, there was no grand search for a General Manager.  It is very possible that, after a search, the interim GM Sheldon White would be considered for the job, which would likely lead to a mass fan revolt.  White is an excellent personnel man, and it would be a shame to lose him, but it’s likely someone with the background of Rod Wood would consider keeping him as a permanent fixture with the team at general manager too much of a risk considering the team’s lack of success with its previous interim-to-permanent hire. It will be interesting to see what direction Wood takes the team in.  All we know for certain is that it’s going to be a different direction.  What that means is anyone’s guess.

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