Regner: In Mayhew we trust
Now that Calvin Johnson has signed up to stay in Detroit for his entire playing career, will Lions fans please relax for a while?
We have witnessed something during the past three years that’s totally uncharacteristic of the man who's ultimately responsible for mapping out the Lions' fortunes.
General manager Martin Mayhew seems to know exactly what he’s doing. Unlike his predecessors, who all had a vice-like grip on the job despite showing complete incompetence, Mayhew understands how to build a football team.
Excuse me if I’m a bit effusive about Mayhew, but I never thought this day would come. A day when I could honestly say this about the Lions GM, “In Mayhew, we trust.”
Except for the owner, the most important member of any professional team is the general manager — a rare combination of evaluator, builder and visionary.
Mayhew possesses all of those qualities, which propels him into the conversation of being one of the NFL’s top executives.
From the moment he took the job, he demonstrated cunningness by hoodwinking the Dallas Cowboys into trading for underachieving receiver Roy Williams.
Williams was a bit of a space cadet, and Mayhew was able to grab the Cowboy’s first-, third- and sixth-round picks in the 2009 draft for a player who would never reach his full potential.
It was also in the 2009 draft that Mayhew proved he knew what needed to be done for the Lions to become a contender.
With many armchair GM’s screaming for the Lions to draft Wake Forrest linebacker Aaron Curry with the first overall pick, Mayhew instead chose quarterback Matthew Stafford.
After Stafford, Mayhew went with tight end Brandon Pettigrew with the first-round pick he acquired from Dallas, followed by safety Louis Delmas in Round 2, linebacker DeAndre Levy in Round 3 and defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill in Round 4.
Each of these players have been significant contributors to the Lions.
As this offseason approached, the Calvin Johnson contract situation consumed the Detroit fan base. Conventional wisdom was that the Lions risked losing Johnson if they couldn’t come to a long-term, cap-friendly agreement.
Rumors swirled that Megatron was unhappy in the Motor City and wanted out. Some pundits speculated that if Johnson was signed for megabucks, Detroit wouldn’t have any cap room left to improve their team.
Johnson has signed a deal that will keep him here for a very long time. The Lions have some cap relief to upgrade through free agency, and Mayhew has let it be known that Detroit will draft the “best player available” with their first-round pick (23rd overall) in April.
In previous years, we’d all be wondering how Detroit would screw it up now, but what’s next for the Lions shouldn’t be a concern anymore.
My guess is that they’ll try to re-sign linebacker Stephen Tulloch, upgrade the secondary through free agency and trades — a strong attribute of Mayhew’s — and draft the best player available, which will likely be an offensive lineman.
It doesn’t really matter what I think, though. It's all on Mayhew, and his record is solid.
If he continues to make the right moves, he’ll win over the most pessimistic of Lions fans.
I’m almost ready to follow Mayhew anywhere — even if it means beginning to care about the Lions again.