Ford Jr. on ownership style: ‘Nothing has really changed’

Bill Ford Jr., in the wake of his dad's recent death, insists he plans to run the Lions similar to the way his dad did.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

His father really did have the right model in some ways: Hire a general manager and coach, let them do their jobs, show them support.

With apologies to Jerry Jones and the late George Steinbrenner, it’s the ideal way to run a sports franchise.

The problem was that William Clay Ford Sr., the late Lions’ owner, couldn’t seem to hire the "right" GM and coach.

Russ Thomas and Matt Millen clearly were not the answer. Neither were many of the coaches.

Bill Ford Jr., in the wake of his dad’s recent death, insists he plans to run the Lions similar to the way his dad did.

I’ve never felt that a terribly hands-on model would fit our organization well.

Bill Ford Jr.

That might not sound so good to Lions fans who are frustrated over decades of ineptness, but it can work if Ford Jr. takes the best of his dad’s approach and fixes the worst.

"There are different ownership models around the league," Ford Jr. told reporters attending the annual NFL meetings that began Monday in Orlando. "I’ve never felt that a terribly hands-on model would fit our organization well."

He added: "Nothing has really changed. My mother is the primary owner now and I’m vice chairman. It’s all pretty much the same as it always was."

Ford Jr. recently did get directly involved in a personnel issue, but it was in a good way when he helped recruit free-agent receiver Golden Tate to Detroit.

The Ford family was still in mourning over William Clay Ford’s death only a couple of days earlier, but Ford Jr. made sure to meet face-to-face with Tate.

It left a favorable impression, showing Tate how much he really was wanted by the Lions, and he ended up signing a five-year deal before leaving town.

"I always felt that ownership at all levels is really there to provide support to an organization, whether it’s my father, or my mother or it’s me or anyone else," Ford Jr. said during his interview in Orlando. "It’s to put the resources in place, hire the best people, make sure they’re well supported and then do reviews on performance and make sure they are all held to a high standard, and that won’t change."

Actually, that’s the part that probably does need to change. Ford’s father was known for being loyal to a fault and not making moves when it was clear to many others that change was unquestionably needed within the Lions.

That’s where Bill Ford Jr. ultimately will make his mark on this organization. Does he have the right GM (Martin Mayhew) and coach (recently hired Jim Caldwell) in place now?

If not, will he make the move at the proper time to find the right replacements?