"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently."
"Don't find fault, find a remedy."
"If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself."
"You can't build a reputation on what you were going to do."
"The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time."
All of the above quotes can be attributed to Henry Ford. Somewhere, the teachings of the late automobile mogul appear to be lost in translation as it relates to running the family's other notable business, the Detroit Lions. Considering the elder's work ethic, determination and bold thinking, it's sometimes hard to believe William Clay Ford Sr. is cut from the same gene pool.
When Jim Schwartz was hired in 2009, he inherited a mess. Through their own blind loyalty and stubbornness, the Fords managed to create an environment where failure was not only tolerable, but expected, promoted and allowed to germinate and duplicate. Matt Millen inexplicably kept his job despite failing consistently, players were not held accountable and things bottomed out. Every quote referenced above had been ignored.
Along with Martin Mayhew, Schwartz has done a decent job stabilizing that mess, on the whole. Going from below rock bottom to the top of the mountain is next to impossible, and skipping baby steps doesn't work. While the Lions have certainly disappointed the last few years, they're not as bad as they were following 0-16. The bottom isn't falling out, and for once, there appears to be a stable football foundation to build and improve upon.
That's why this time around, the Fords have a responsibility to call upon the intuitive teachings of their patriarch and take back true ownership of their franchise. Believe it or not, the Lions do have a chance to win. There is enough talent to make playoff and Super Bowl runs, provided the right conductor is brought in to help the team strike the right chords.
Schwartz isn't that maestro. In much the same way that person renovating a multi-million dollar mansion wouldn't keep a general contractor on board as the interior designer, the Lions cannot move forward with Schwartz and expect their remodel to truly feel complete. Schwartz knew how to build a team up much like Marty Mornhinwheg and Rod Marinelli did not. He doesn't possess the "it" factor to get the team over the top and finish the job, however.
There is no excuse for penny pinching passiveness now. With the Lions on the possible doorstep of long-term contention, the next hire had better be the right one to get Detroit over the top and keep them there. Action had better be taken on Schwartz, and the Lions' search for a new coach should include coaches with Super Bowl wins or runs to their credit. The Fords should be prepared to pay up, offer partial control or whatever else the right candidate could demand to make this a possibility.
Unlike the automobile world, sports is about winning first, Mr. Ford, and not a financial bottom line. It's simple, really. Use whatever funds necessary to hire the right people and those people will help deliver the best possible results on the field. In that aspect, it's not unlike running Ford Motor Company. The days of skimping out on the football team should be over with, because the Lions are now being assembled to make a serious drive at glory.
Now, once again, they just need commitment from ownership and the proper man steering the wheel toward that success. Even in lean years, the franchise will always manage to make money, but will it make the proper memories?
As Henry put it years ago, "A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business." Even though the man who started Ford Motor Company is long deceased and may not completely care for the game of football, it's obvious he'd be particularly ashamed of one product his name has long been attached to.
The chance to change that for good starts again on Monday, December 30, 2013. This time around, the Fords had better be ready to make all the right moves.
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