I received a couple emails after my appearance on Tom Kowalski's The Point After Lions show Thursday night, one saying I was spot on with my take on the team's general-manager search and one saying I was too complimentary of acting GM Martin Mayhew. It goes to show that people hear what they want to from some of these things, but for those that missed it here's my take:
Mayhew, Tom Lewand and the rest of the front office have a definite chance of staying in power after the season. Lewand, many people feel, is unlikely to go anywhere for some of the accomplishments he's had and relationships he's made. Mayhew has acquitted himself nicely in the almost two months since he took over for Matt Millen. He's made several wise free-agent signings to improve the roster (Daunte Culpepper, Moran Norris and Stu Schweigert) and he got absolute value in dealing Roy Williams to Dallas for three draft picks.
I think Mayhew can and will be a good general manager in this league. He's intensely private so I won't pretend to know him well, but he appears to be a bright football mind with excellent negotiating skills and a thorough understanding of the NFL landscape. A current general manager with another NFC team told me last month that Mayhew got better value for Williams at the trade deadline than he would have at this year's draft or could have last April, when more teams were bidding on the receiver.
That said, I think the Lions would be wise to conduct a thorough search after the season, the groundwork for which will be laid in the coming weeks. Scott Pioli, Shack Harris, Reggie McKenzie, Kevin Colbert, Tom Heckert, Nick Caserio and others should be interviewed, and in the end I think the Lions will do what's in their best interests and hire someone from outside the organization.
Mayhew, unfortunately and through no fault of his own, enters the process with two strikes against him for his association with Millen and the Lions' prolonged 31-91 skid. Fans are fed up with losing (as evidenced by three straight blackouts and falling attendance at Ford Field), and with the state of the economy the franchise faces an uphill battle to retain and grow its ticket base next year.
Football decisions should never be made solely for business reasons, and hiring any name on that list short of Pioli won't lead to a spike in individual or corporate sales. But as good as Mayhew might be, there are many people and many ways to win in the NFL and the Lions would be foolish not to investigate them all. At the end of the day, I think that realization coupled with the fact that this truly is a good job and will attract good people will be too much for an organization hemorrhaging support to ignore.