Sunday, February 05, 2006

FORD means "Found On Road Dead"

Owners of professional sports often ingratiate themselves into the fabric of their team's identity, most notably George Steinbrenner in MLB and Mark Cuban in the NBA. But probably no sport is as reflective of their owner's personality than the NFL. The Oakland Raiders are Al Davis. The Washington Redskins have been up and down because of the extravagant spending and impatience of Daniel Snyder. The Pittsburgh Steelers' stability is a reflection of their owner, Dan Rooney. Even the Rams still feel the influence of the increasingly reclusive Georgia Frontiere.

The Minnesota Vikings stank for the period of the Mike Tice regime because former owner Red McCombs was a stupid nouveau-riche redneck Texan used car salesman who was trying to sell the team. Once he sold the Vikes to New Jersey real estate magnate Zygi Wilf, the team began to reflect his personality, culminating in the hiring of squeaky-clean drill sergeant Brad Childress to eliminate the police-blotter hijinks that have characterized the past few seasons in Minnesota. Class begets class; rednecks beget brain-dead coaches and players.

Which leads us to the Ford family in Detroit; yes, those Fords, those of the Edsel and the Pinto, just to name two. This is a family that supposedly knows something about running a business, but that philosophy includes competing with the Walton family for title of "cheapest billionaires on the planet." Ford just announced massive nationwide employee layoffs the week before the Superbowl festivities in Detroit at (you guessed it) Ford Field. How's that for brilliant PR?

But what indicates the absolute height of cheap football stupidity is the apparently collapsed deal to bring former Rams head coach Mike Martz to the Lions as their new offensive coordinator. Long-time readers know that I'm no Martz apologist; I've been calling for the Rams to sack him for a couple of years now, and I think it was, in fact, the right thing to do.

But the fact remains that Martz is perhaps the most brilliant offensive mind in the NFL, and Detroit's offense stinks in spite of the considerable weapons they possess. It's like having a hanger full of F-18s but no pilots to man them. But Joey Harrington's a bust, you say? Martz specializes in building NFL quarterbacks. He took three unknowns named Trent Green, Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger and made them into Pro Bowl caliber players. He could easily do the same with Harrington in his corps of talented receivers. New Lions head coach Rod Marinelli reportedly hit it off big-time with Martz and wants him as part of his staff, and Martz wants to come to Detroit and prove to everyone that he still has what it takes to succeed as an offensive mind.

So what's the problem? The Fords are too cheap to pay him. They want a Mustang, but they're only willing to pay for an Escort. How typical. Why are the Lions consistently one of the worst teams in the NFL? In this league, if you want to know why a team is good or bad, all you have to do is look up into the owner's box.

And if that doesn't convince you, I only have two words for you: Bill Bidwell.

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