Detroit Lions: Ownership brings more of the same, struggles to relate

(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

Detroit Lions team owner Sheila Ford Hamp has struggled to rekindle the organizations’ relationship with their most recent Hall Of Famer, Calvin Johnson.

Since Sheila Ford Hamp took over as the primary owner of the Detroit Lions, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the progress and direction of the franchise.

I’m more than thrilled that Sheila Ford Hamp decided to fire former general manager (GM) Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia.

Ridding themselves of the previous regime was the first big step in the right direction this organization needed to take.  It was clear things were not working, and we, the fans, needed to see some positive progress to keep us fully engaged.  Instead, over the past three years, the teams’ trajectory has been trending downward.

So kudos to Sheila Ford Hamp for recognizing this and quickly making a change.

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It appears the new regime is off and running in the correct direction under Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell with assistance from additional newcomers John Dorsey, Chris Spielman, and even Barry Sanders.

The issue many have with the Detroit Lions is their handling of the Calvin Johnson situation.

Calvin Johnson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame over the weekend and threw shade towards the Detroit Lions organization by not mentioning them.  Nothing.  Johnson gracefully thanked Lions fans but failed to mention or thank the organization.

In a brief but heartfelt speech, Johnson spoke about how the city of Detroit is home, and despite even going 0-16, the fans never stopped showing up, disappointed, yes, but never stopped showing up. That drove him to perform game after game despite the teams’ overall record.

In the weeks leading up to the ceremony, the Detroit Lions made a conscious effort to mend the frayed relationship with Johnson, but in my mind, it was likely more about trying to save face on the national stage.  The Lions get ridiculed enough as it is, and they probably didn’t want to be poked fun at during a time that should be a celebration.

The organization severed ties with Johnson when they forced him to repay a $1.6 million signing bonus after he retired.  Also, the Lions refused to release him at the end of his career upon request.  He wanted to continue to play football, but not for the Lions.  They refused.  After the Barry Sanders debacle, you’d think they’d just let him keep the money and say thanks for everything.  Sure, it’s a business, but Shelia has that kind of money lodged in her office couch cushions.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit Lions made an offer to Johnson that included $500,000 annually over the next three years plus make a one-time donation of $100,000 to his charity.  The catch?  He’d be obligated to attend various Lions events.

It seems the organization is willing to re-pay Johnson, but on their terms.  If Sheila Ford Hamp wanted to mend fences, she would sign Johnson to a one-year contract worth $1.6 million and then cut him.  Simple.  The Lions have the cap space in 2021 to make this move, and it is the first year of a rebuild—just food for thought.

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I will say, Johnson did somewhat take the high road by not saying anything about the Lions brass; he did not slam the organization but was still able to drive his point home by not saying anything at all.