Former player Joe Dumars put together a championship team as general manager of the Detroit Pistons.
Former player Steve Yzerman is being asked to do the same for the Detroit Red Wings.
This week former Lion players will ask the Lions to promote one of their own to the front office in a letter to owner Sheila Ford Hamp. The main target is former Lions offensive lineman Larry Lee who worked in the Lions front office for nine years and is now a member of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, an organization that looks to bridge the racial divide in coaching and front office positions in the NFL.
“We want somebody who wore the colors and has the passion,” said former player Allen Hughes.
They want Lee as General Manager or to be in an advisory role for the troubled franchise as it tries to figure out its next step after the Lions cleaned house Saturday by firing coach Matt Patricia and General Manager Bob Quinn.
The Lions (4-7 this season) are 13-29-1 under Quinn and Patricia the last three seasons and are coming off a 41-25 Thanksgiving Day loss to the Houston Texans — their fourth loss in the last five games.
Public pressure became unbearable and the Lions made the right move in moving on from the two men. Things were getting worse on the field and there was no way Patricia could show considerable improvement which was demanded by Ford Hamp. I’ll admit I did not expect it to happen based on past history and based on the Lions almost always making the wrong move.
Now the Lions can begin the process of looking for another coach. My choice is Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. You cannot officially approach him, but the Lions can send out feelers and decide if he is indeed the right guy.
Quinn tried to distance himself from Patricia and stand on his own accord. The ploy did not work. Now I’m wondering if President Rod Wood is safe.
The Lions contacted firm Heidrix and Struggles, which helps organizations connect with CEOs. However, the company does not specialize in identifying sports executives. Could the Lions be looking to replace Wood, who admits he is not a football man and said in his opening press conference he was not qualified to be president of 31 of the 32 NFL teams?
Who knows with this team?
Lee would like to advise the Ford family during these tumultuous times. He worked in the front office before as vice president of football operations, but was fired by President Matt Millen after he took over in 2001. That might be a feather in Lee’s cap because Millen went on to become one of the worse management hires in professional sports history. Lee has been out of the game since but has advised a number of NFL teams.
Lee, 61, was selected in the fifth round of the 1981 draft out of UCLA by the Lions and played here for five seasons before being released. He was claimed the next day by the Miami Dolphins. He has worked in the team’s front office before and butted heads with management. Former players may also push for former linebacker Chris Spielman mostly because of his competitive nature and link with brother Rick Spielman, who has served the last eight years as the Minnesota Vikings general manager.
A third alumni candidate that makes more sense is former cornerback Bruce McNorton, who has worked the last two decades as a college scout with the Pittsburgh Steelers under GM Kevin Colbert. McNorton sits in on meetings with Colbert and knows the Steelers system. He remains connected with Detroit and wants to see the Lions succeed. The franchise has made three Super Bowls and won two under Colbert.
Colbert would be an interesting name also although it might be difficult to pry him from the Steelers, an annual Super Bowl contender. The Lions are the only NFC team to play in every year of the Super Bowl era not to make the championship game.
There could be an opening with Colbert, who has decided to work under a series of one-year contracts, and is a former Lions employee.
The Lions alumni want to push for a former player because it has worked in this town before. Also former players are embarrassed by the product the Lions have placed on the field and believe one of the alumni would view turning the Lions around as a passion and not just a job.
Their belief is that outsiders do not understand Lions culture, the community or care as deeply as a former player would.
The push now is for Lee.
“If he (Lee) gets a shot I am more than happy to support that,” said Hughes.
Spielman is supported by former teammate Lomas Brown. However, Spielman’s strength could be his weakness.
“He will call people out,” Hughes said. “He won’t bite his tongue.”
That is something the Lions are not big fans of in their front office.Find Terry Foster Podcast here: