Detroit Lions: Martha Ford stepping down as owner

Quick hitters on the (semi) changing of the guard in Detroit Lions ownership, as Martha Ford passes the torch to her daughter.

 In football locker rooms, the common phrase when a player goes out is “next man up”. In the Detroit Lions owner’s box, that saying might as well be changed to “next Ford up”.

Through the team website, the Lions announced on Tuesday morning that 94-year-old owner and chairman Martha Firestone Ford is stepping away from her role. After a tumultuous offseason, Lions ownership will be changing hands, but only sort of. Here are a few quick hitter questions as this news sinks in:

Does Martha Ford stepping down come as a surprise?

It shouldn’t. It’s definitely noteworthy and sudden, but surprising should be the last word to describe the retirement of someone who will almost be 100 years old when Matthew Stafford’s next contract is up.

Should we expect big changes within the Detroit Lions organization now?

Absolutely not. The Fords are keeping it in the family, and any fans holding “sell the team” viewpoints are going to come away from this news disappointed. The torch is now being passed to Bill and Martha Ford’s daughter, Sheila Ford Hamp. In addition to being a former Michigan high school tennis champion, the 68-year-old Yale grad has been heavily involved with the team and has groomed for this role for decades, if not her entire life.

As far as the ownership strategy and decision-making process goes, for better or worse, it should be business as usual. Whether Sheila adopts her mom’s trademark sunglasses indoors remains to be seen.

What does this mean for Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia moving forward?

The same as it has meant all winter. Behind the scenes, Sheila Ford Hamp was instrumental in the decision to bring back Matt Patricia for another year as head coach, a move that the fanbase remains heavily divided on. The Fords took a united stand in their support of Patricia and GM Bob Quinn, who they maintain has the franchise heading in the right direction on the field.

Favorite Martha Ford moment…

I’m sure it didn’t play out exactly how I picture it in my head (think of Entourage when Ari Gold takes the agency back Terminator style with a paintball gun), but how could it not be the firing frenzy of 2015? The Lions were 1-7 at the time, right after posting their best season in twenty years, and Martha was not pleased.

What followed was a massive rolling of heads during the bye week and a furious turnaround over the second half of the season. The Lions won six of their final eight games in the aftermath, and returned to the playoffs in 2016.

Thank you to Martha Firestone Ford for all her work with the Lions over the years.  Following the death of William Clay Ford in 2014, the Lions posted a winning record three times and reached the playoffs twice in her six years as majority owner and chairman. Now it’s Sheila’s turn to take the helm. Next Ford up!