the sins of the father

>> 4.07.2009

Tom Kowalski of mlive.com returned from a week-ish long hiatus to bring us this whopper of an admission:"

"I'll never forget the day that the Lions took Harrington with the third overall pick in 2002. Just minutes after they made the selection, I got a tip from someone who was in the Lions' war room that Mornhinweg was furious with the decision. After quickly getting it confirmed, I wrote about it and went on the radio with the information.

Within minutes of that happening, the Lions' public relations department set up a quick meeting with me and Mornhinweg - this is while the draft was still in its early stages. (I had never experienced anything like that before or since.) Mornhinweg spent 30 minutes trying to convince me that my sources were wrong and that he actually was on board with the pick. I knew it was total nonsense and Mornhinweg admitted years later that he never wanted Harrington - he wanted to trade the pick and, if that didn't work, he wanted cornerback Quentin Jammer."

Martin Mayhew, when (repeatedly) asked how he could be qualified to run a team when most of his real experience has come while working under Matt Millen, has said that he saw, from a very close range, how not to do it.  This example shows you exactly the kind of things he saw: egoes clashing, arm wrestling, territorial pissing matches.  The ownership dictating to management, management directing the front office, the management and front office running roughshod over the coaching staff, nobody working together, everyone pulling in different directions.  We saw it over and over and over during the Millen era: there was never a plan, there was never consistency, there was never a direction, but there WAS plenty of shouting and territory-marking.

At every step of the regime change: the hiring of Lewand and Mayhew, the firing of Marinelli, the steady-paced coaching search with multiple second interviews and multiple meet-the-pressers, the hiring of Jim Schwartz, his steady-paced coordinator search and hires, their slow filling out of the rest of the staff, and the long search for "the third football mind" and eventual hire of Shack Harris, there has been one message repeated over and over and over.  Mayhew and Lewand had a vision of the team they wanted the Lions to be, and they wanted a coach who shared that vision.  The coach's ideas of how to build a team was the same as the front office's, and he hired coordinators and assistants who understood and could execute those ideas.  Mayhew and Lewand wanted a credentialed personnel man to coordinate and oversee the scouts, and provide his own input and guidance--and they waited until they found the man with the right combination of experience and success.  All of the personnel moves made this season have precisely matched what the front office and coaching staff has said are the goals: run, stop the run, get bigger, get smarter, and get tougher.  There is a clear, stated plan, and all the available evidence says that the plan is being executed, from the highest levels on down.

This is not to say that there is, to borrow a phrase from my friend Steve at Detroit Lions Weblog, "hierarchical simpatico".  Everyone doesn't agree 100% all the time on every decision.  As an example, I get the sense that Mayhew never liked Drew Stanton as a pick, and DS doesn't figure into his medium- or long-term plans at all.  However, Jim Schwartz and Scott Linehan have each seemed genuinely interested in working with Drew and seeing what they have in him.  However, it's my belief that if Jim Schwartz and Scott Linehan came to Martin Mayhew and said, "We've evaluated Matt Stafford, and he's no good.  He can't be our quarterback", then Mayhew would not draft Stafford #1 overall.

Of course I have no idea what Schwartz or Linehan REALLY think about Stafford--maybe his workout really was "flawless" and they desperately want him under center.  But I do have an idea about what Mayhew thinks about Millen.  I do have an idea that Millen's greatest mistake was selecting Joey Harrington, knowing his coach didn't want him and couldn't use him.  The folly of acquiescing to the Ford's wishes over the pleas of  his scouts and personnel men, and the hubris of sticking it to his head coach by making Mornhinweg go out and spend thirty minutes lying through his teeth to Kowalski about how happy he is to have Harrington.  These are the greatest sins that Matt Millen committed, and they're ones I know Mayhew has committed to not making.

So, I've said it before and I'll say it again: if Matt Stafford is the pick--and at this point, I believe he will be--know that it is because Jim Schwartz and Scott Linehan have every confidence that they can mold this young man into an excellent NFL quarterback.

19 comments:

Anonymous,  April 7, 2009 at 12:18 PM  

Ty, I really do enjoy reading this blog.
And, I totally agree!
I think regardless of if they win, or when, or how... Mayhew has had a plan. Mayhew talked WCF into hiring him as GM, with Lewand being the President(cap/numbers/spokes-man).
Now, he is implementing the plan. I am sure he made sure, that all the people involved(Lewand, Scwartz, Linehan, Cunningham, Shack Harris) are ALL in this Together.
Mayhew is highly educated, adn though that helps nil on evaluating talent, it means he is smart enough to know when he needs his staffs input!
If they take Stafford, then so be it!
The fact he has made moves, made changes, got rid of Roy, got something for Jon, something for Cory, and managed to add STARTERS, is so far atleast resembling someone knowing what theyre doin?
Keep it up TY$
Neal

Ty April 7, 2009 at 1:46 PM  

Thanks, Neal!

Yeah, when I read about Martin Mayhew . . . a former veteran player with a law degree from Georgetown? That's a formidable mind, paired with an intimate knowledge of what it takes to succeed in the NFL. It's arguable that Millen was also a smart guy who knew what it took to win, but Millen was not a businessman, nor did he have that level of classical education. You can see it when you look at them. Millen looks like a sports journalist: a aging former jock's body squeezed into an unremarkable suit and tie. Mayhew looks like an executive, a polished professional--and yes, as you say, his moves so far have absolutely backed that up. He's been patient, and yet he's been opportunistic (JP, Dockery, Cutler). Just about every move he's made has been judicious and well-considered. Obviously, until we see the team on the field, we can't tell if they've been effective, too, but I have my hopes.

Peace
Ty

Anonymous,  April 7, 2009 at 5:14 PM  

Ty,

If you remember when Shack got hired, he stated how Jacksonville ran their draft room. Everyone got together and hashed out all the players and the ones that they all agreed upon were the ones chosen. I feel that Shack will advise Mayhew to do it the same way. I do not think there will a pick that is a surprise to the coaching staff and I do not see Mayhew as someone who thinks he knows it all like Millen did.
LionfaninPA

Anonymous,  April 7, 2009 at 7:33 PM  

Ty,I enjoy your blog as well as all your post's I read on other sites.

I,like you seem to be as well,am an eternal optimist when it comes to our Damned Lions.I agree 100% with what you say about Mayhew.

It is such a radical departure from the numbness induced by Millen upon all of us in Leoland to have an educated,calculating mind running things.

I want to hope it works...I will see after the draft before I get totally emotionally sucked in again.

Regards,Kennaaye

Anonymous,  April 7, 2009 at 11:10 PM  

Great job Ty.

It's a pleasure to read well-reasoned analysis of our team instead of the drivel put forth by some of the mainsteam sources. I am impressed ao far, as you are, by this new regime. Speaking as a Lydown fan for 45 years, what a breath of fresh air these guys seem to be. I'll keep my fingers crossed come April 25-26, and perhaps the worst drafting in the history of the NFL will end.

Riley April 7, 2009 at 11:51 PM  

I'm curious about this bit:
"This example shows you exactly the kind of things he saw: egoes clashing, arm wrestling, territorial pissing matches. The ownership dictating to management, management directing the front office, the management and front office running roughshod over the coaching staff, nobody working together, everyone pulling in different directions."


What leads you to believe that the ownership was dictating to management? What basis is there to believe that Ford Sr. was pressuring Millen to hire Joey Harrington? I think this is just a popular myth, but maybe I'm wrong and there's really some evidence behind it.

It's funny, because I now here the same sort myth-making going on about how the Fords are going to pressure Mayhew to hire Stafford, which to me sounds entirely contrary to everything I've ever heard about the Fords. Far from being meddling, they delegate; they don't meddle.

But maybe I'm wrong. I'd really love someone correct my mis-impression with evidence if in fact I'm wrong.

Riley April 7, 2009 at 11:52 PM  

It's funny, because I now hear the same sort myth-making going on about how the Fords are going to pressure Mayhew to hire Stafford

TimT April 8, 2009 at 9:40 AM  

I'm kind of with Riley on the question of where that direction of picking Harrington came from.

We know Mooch said about Millen "He really wants to be a personnel guy, but he doesn't want to put the time into it that it requires." As well as stating that there were picks made where they just looked around the war-room at each other like, "why did we just pick him?".

Was this Millen or was this Millen following orders?

I fall back on Mooch's complaint that Millen wouldn't put the time in... I get the impression that Millen thought he had "gamedar" a kind of "gaydar" that allowed him to spot gamers like some can spot flamers.

Then again, Ford could have pressured him to find Sander's replacement as someone who could bring the fans to their feet.

Ty April 8, 2009 at 9:43 AM  

Riley, TimT--

Obviously, the real answers are only known by Matt Millen, the Fords, and maybe some of the Lions' front-office staff at the time (such as Bill Tobin) . . . You know, this would make a really good investigative piece.

Gimme a few hours.

Peace
Ty

Riley April 8, 2009 at 10:08 AM  

My bigger point would be, that if you don't know for a fact that the owners were dictating to managment, why would you be stating it as a fact?

Ty April 8, 2009 at 10:54 AM  

Because, dude, this is the internet! Half-truths, rumors, and misinformation are just as good as "truth" when appropriately presented!

. . . seriously, though, in digging around on this, I'm discovering that I did remember some details about the '02 draft incorrectly. Publicly at least, Bill Tobin was responsible for putting together the draft board, and he publicly defended the Harrington pick even after his firing. I was correct in remembering that the coaching staff was rumored to want Jammer, and that the thought was that even Millen himself personally favored Jammer--and would have done anything to get Julius Peppers if the Panthers had any interest in not getting Julius Peppers (they didn't). However, Tobin pushed for Harrington, and Millen relented. I'm in the process of researching this right now, pulling sources together to fill in the gaps, but I want to address your point.

It's undeniable that Millen and the elder Ford had a great bond, and each other's ear. It's also undeniable that Harrington was drafted over the strong objections of the coaching staff. It's also undeniable that Harrington was pressed into service very early, week 2 of his rookie season, again against the coach's wishes. It's further undeniable that Harrington was cemented in as the starter throughout Mariucci's coaching tenure, again despite his strong preferences otherwise.

Now, I can buy that Millen was simply listening to his head personnel man--as he should--when he drafted Harrington over Jammer. However, when he fired that man (Tobin), what incentive did Millen have to keep forcing the issue? Why hire Mariucci, then force Mooch to 'build' his offense around a quarterback he had no faith in? Once you fire Tobin for staking his reputation on a player who wasn't working, why not make that player earn his job?

Could it be that Millen was willing to drive the franchise into the ground for the sake of being 'right' on a pick? Could it be that Millen would torpedo the effectiveness of Mariucci--a coach who, if the rumors at the time were true, Millen was essentially hired to bring in--just to try and validate his blunder? Was even Matt Millen's ego so big? . . . I suppose it's possible.

As I said up there, the real answer is only known to the Fords, Matt Millen, and maybe a handful of others. However, it's my belief that at the very least, Big Willie Style *wanted* a franchise quarterback to draw in fans, sell jerseys, and sell tickets. The fact that Harrington jerseys were available on the official site within minutes of the pick being sent in backs that contention up. It's further my belief that Millen decided to give the old man what he wanted, assured by Tobin's evaluation that the kid was solid. He must have figured that Mornhinweg would relent when he started working with the kid and saw his skill . . . oops.

The Killer anecdote is really tears it for me. The desperate attempt to save face, ordering the head coach to go lie through his teeth for a half an hour, trying convince the local rag's beat writer that he really wanted Harrington all along. It just smacks of desperation. It smacks of toadying. It has the reek of a man who's trying desperately to justify a bad decision he knows he made for the wrong reasons.

So no, I don't have any real proof that WCF had, at the least, an influential role in Millen taking Harrington. But all the bread crumbs are there to be followed, and I chose to follow them. Still, maybe I need to work harder at more clearly delinating what is fact and what is supposition.

Thank you, Riley, for holding my feet to the fire on this.

Peace
Ty

Anonymous,  April 8, 2009 at 11:09 AM  

I think, in my humblest opinion, no one will ever really know what was going on while Millen was sterring the ship, with Ford Sr behind him, possibly as his navigator? We wont know, ever. This was a decade of disbelieve that turned to worse... a sense of 'belief'. Belief that the Lions were/are terrible.
I feel like there has been numerous interviews with Mooch, and others, as well as the lone interview on CBS with Millen, it has made me tend to believe that Ford Sr, did in fact have a lot to say in this mess; why else would Millen have been allowed to stick around for so long. I think Ford Sr is a business man, who thinks any business is business. Though being sucessful in football and automobiles are vastly different. I have heard on numerous occassions that before Marinelli was hired, and Millen given the extension; staff/advisors came to him and said, "Mr Ford you MUST hire a new regime, you MUST hire a new staff, and start from scratch. You CANNOT extend Millen. You CANNOT allow him to hire a new coach either!"
It was told that Mr Ford then responded by doing exactly opposite. Supposedly an act of defiance, communicating with his people, "He will do whatever he feels fit, and no one will tel this old man how to run hsi businesses".....
I dont know, just my thoughts, opinions, and comments.
Neal
Lansing, Mi

Riley April 8, 2009 at 1:29 PM  

Of course no one will ever know. Millen himself might not even know exactly what was going on in his head.

That being said, I don't even see how the bread crumbs could *reasonably* be said to lead to the assumption that Ford Sr. dictated the Joey Harrington pick.

With regard to his relationship to Matt Millen, Ford Sr has a long history of selecting an executive to run his businesses, placing full support and trust in them, and then sticking with them right to the bitter end. For good or bad, that's his history. When Ford fires an executive, it can never be said that the guy did not get every opportunity to succeed -- financial support, authority, job flexibility, time to recover from mistakes, you name it, Ford supports his executives. Millen's overly long tenure is not an extraordinary chapter in Ford Sr.'s bio, except that when it came to a bitter end, it came to a spectacularly bitter end.

Assuming that Ford Sr was injecting himself in player personnel decisions and pressuring management to make his picks just so that the team could could sell some more jerseys and tickets is simplistically conspiratorial ( a good QB doesn't guarantee winning,and you wont sell tickets unless you're winning, conversely if you're winning, you don't need a good QB to sell tickets!).

Those who know Ford Sr describe him as a present, but hand's-off owner. I have never seen nor heard any credible evidence that suggests otherwise. On the other hand, there's a lot of evidence that Matt Millen is a shameless brown-noser. So, if I were going to follow the breadcrumbs and make a guess based on the evidence, I would say that Millen made the pick because of a misguided notion and overly eager attempt to ingratiate himself with the Fords.

I'm mostly bringing up this Ford Sr. issue up, because I am now, once again, hearing this very same argument leading up to this draft: the Lions are gong to pick Matt Stafford #1 overall because Ford Sr is going to dictate the pick to his new GM (as if he's ever done this in the past). To make this argument as a reason why the Lions are going to pick Matt Stafford appears to me to be a bad argument based on ignorance and presumptuous rumor.


.

Ty April 8, 2009 at 2:16 PM  

Neal--

There's no doubt that Mr. Ford has typically done things "his way" with "his people" throughout his life, for good or for ill.

Peace
Ty

Anonymous,  April 8, 2009 at 3:01 PM  

I like this. Riley your very well spoken, and bring a lot to the conversation, which is not always the case when conversing on the internet.
You even used a word or two I couldnt even pronounce, and werent 'sure' what they meant. lol
But, anyways, I do not believe that this is a reflection of this years situation. I think this si all Mayhew, and Mayhew talked a good enough game to have Ford Sr hand him the keys to hsi billion dollar toy, and its up to Mayhew to interact with Schwartz, Shack, and Linehan for a final decision.
I see all the points here, I do,
However, I just remember hearing things from the Detroit media types and pundits, and as well as an aquaintence that worked at ESPN at the time. I remember the story that someone jsut shouted out lets draft Calhoun RB out of Wisconsin, and they did? I remember the so called influx of tickets sold the couple months between draft day and the season that year. I remember they said they sold the crap out of these Harrignton jerseys that were available minutes after hsi selection? Teams do have a sense of urgency to sell tickets, and with the hype of a single player it does work. Sex Sells. And Sexy is a QB, or star RB(Bush, McFadden SOLD) not a LB, or OL.
Just more banter from me, fellas!
Neal

Ty April 8, 2009 at 3:22 PM  

Riley--

From what little I know of the man (a.k.a, what has made the papers in the last twenty-odd years), you are absolutely right in your characterizations of Mr. Ford, and the way he famously supports his decision-makers through thick and thin . . . it calls to mind Daryl Rogers's famous line, "What does a guy have to do to get fired around here?" In a vacuum, I find this trait (near-boundless patience with, and loyalty to, subordinates) to be quite admirable. However, much like with Rod Marinelli, when that loyalty isn't earned through performance, that loyalty can become a real detriment to your objectives . . .

I admit that there's no proof that William Clay Ford, Sr. ever "dictated" anything to Matt Millen. It's entirely possible that Matt Millen drafted Joey Harrington because he was strictly following the draft board that Bill Tobin set up. However, and you call this out, I think it's far more likely that the reason Matt Millen drafted Joey Harrington--and then rammed him down the throat of nearly fifty coaches and assistants over four years--is that he thought it's what Mr. Ford wanted.

Whether he thought it was what Mr. Ford wanted because of his delusional sycophancy, or--Occam's Razor, here--because Mr. Ford told him it's what he wants, OR some combination of the two, is ultimately immaterial to my original point: Millen constantly ran roughshod over his staff and coaches, never had a consistent plan, and seemed to make decisions by the seat of his pants. Even when there WAS a plan, he was never a moment's whim from chucking it out the window.

To be honest, I haven't heard anyone I respect say what you've heard, that Big Willie Style is going to come down from on high and demand that Stafford be the pick. As you say, that's not been his style, historically--and even if he really *did* do that with Harrington, it cost him untold millions; I would hope he wouldn't go to that well again. However, I think that Mayhew has the stones, the faith in himself, and the professionalism to say "no" to Mr. Ford if he thought it was the wrong move. And further, I believe that if Schwartz or Linehan said they couldn't build their offense (and their team) around Matt Stafford, that Mayhew would consider it the wrong move.

I think the Lions are going to pick Matt Stafford because they think he's an incredibly gifted young man with a great head on his shoulders, who can be the cornerstone of the offense, the team, and the franchise for ten years.

Peace
Ty

Anonymous,  April 8, 2009 at 6:56 PM  

There we go Our Starting Guard, .......


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matt_Lentz

Neal

Riley April 10, 2009 at 6:16 PM  

Ty,

I haven't heard "heard anyone I respect" say that Ford is going to dictate to his management the Matt Stafford pick either (I don't generally respect the opinions who try to make that claim about Ford, because I know better), but I have read many mock draft web sites making that argument, and I have heard an occasional ESPN commentator suggest it too (in an off hand way, something like: Ford wants to sell tickets and so the pick has to be Stafford).

Darryn April 25, 2009 at 6:51 AM  

Remember also Ty, Ford Jr. when he introduced him said Millen had "final say on personnel matters". That was reneged with the Harrington pick, among others. I also believe that hiring Mariucci wasn't Millen's call either. Millen was a perfect example of being a figurehead for the organization' mistakes. The team better hope that Lewand and Mayhew will stick with their plan and not be bullied into a decision they know isn't inline with it.

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