William Clay Ford Sr: The Right Owner For The Detroit Lions

Rudy DominickCorrespondent IMay 22, 2009

Detroit Lions  chairman William Clay Ford  before play  against the Miami Dolphins in a Thanksgiving Day game Nov. 23, 2006 in Detroit. The Dolphins won 27 - 10.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

William Clay Ford Sr. has been vilified in the media, being labeled the “Second Worst NFL Owner” recently by SI.com and before that the “Second Worst Owner in Sports”, behind being the current Oklahoma City Thunder owner that relocated the team from Seattle.

Ford Sr.  became the sole owner of the Detroit Lions in 1964, when he purchased the team for $4.5 million dollars. The team is now worth $917 million. 

The Lions have been second-rate throughout Ford’s ownership, with the team winning only one playoff game.  The biggest disgrace was former general manager Matt Millen’s eight-year stint in Detroit with a pathetic 31-97 overall record.

While it has been dismal during the Ford era and the Lions are one of the worst franchises in all of sports, would you consider taking Ford over these potential owners in 2009?

San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers were the top franchise during the 1980’s, led by superstars Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. They fell short of a ten win season once in the decade while collecting four Super Bowl Championships. 

Those days are long gone since a scandal hit in 2000, forcing new ownership.  Their dismal play and the lack of a new stadium have raised many doubts in the new owner. 

The 49ers have not been able to reach an agreement on a new stadium and may be heading south to Santa Clara County.   Since the takeover, the 49ers barely eclipsed the Lions with a higher winning percentage by .006.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals feeble record is worse than Detroit’s winning percentage under Ford. 

The owner is adamant about not hiring a general manager and has an undermanned scouting department, possibly the reason so many misfits with criminal records end up in the Ohio city.  

Their top receiver, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, departed, leaving Chad OchoCinco to attempt to cry his way out of town. These developments, along with their criminal convictions, make this not a team to be proud of. The hooligans that don the orange and black were arrested ten times in 14 months back in 2007. 

Washington Redskins

Daniel Snyder has thrown absurd amounts of money at every talented free agent with a pulse.  With his monetary backing, the team is still four games under .500. 

Maybe Snyder is confused and thought this was a high-stakes fantasy football league.  While he will definitely splash the cash, the team hasn’t produced results, resulting in sub-par season after sub-par season in a strong NFC East.

Oakland Raiders

“The Worst Owner in the NFL” is the Raiders aging owner, Al Davis. 

Davis has driven a once proud organization into the ground. Finding a new head coach for him is a lengthy process with several candidates declining the opportunity. 

He continues to shock everyone with his outrageous first-round draft selections: including a kicker, punter, and the perennial selection of the fastest 40-yard dash time including this year’s choice in Darrius Heyward-Bey.

Looking at these other NFL owners, would Detroit be better off without Ford Sr.?  Is he as terrible as he’s made out to be?

Ford Sr. has kept the Lions in Detroit during his ownership of the team, while seven NFL teams since 1964 have changed their address. 

He moved the team to downtown Detroit to revitalize the city, placing a state-of-the-art stadium adjacent to Comerica Park, while the Pistons remain in an upscale suburban neighborhood. 

Ford’s winning percentage leaves room for improvement, yet his worst flaw is loyalty.  He kept Millen around for several years too long, even giving him a large contract extension in the process. 

That loyalty will come in handy as the world continues to witness Detroit’s financial meltdown, Ford will keep the team entrenched where it belongs. 

In 2008, Ford made a very unpopular choice in keeping Martin Mayhew as the team’s general manager.  That move has given fans hope again, with Mayhew’s shrewd trade tactics and free agent moves. 

Ford could have saved himself $20-$30 million dollars by demanding the team select linebacker Aaron Curry number one overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, yet he went with the quarterback he hopes will resurrect the franchise. 

He spends money, maybe it’s not as flashy as Redskins owner Snyder, yet he isn’t accused of withholding funds to improve the team. 

Detroit currently has $7.4 million dollars left on the cap, while Tampa Bay and Kansas City have over $30 million available. 

Ford Sr. may not be the best owner in the NFL, but he’s exactly what Detroit needs during these dire times. 


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