By Carol Cain
Sounds like Detroit Lions Coach Jim Schwartz and General Manager Martin Mayhew will survive the cutbacks sweeping through NFL land’s front offices.
Other NFL teams lowered the boom Monday after the regular season ended as pink slips were given to seven coaches and five general managers following disappointing seasons. That’s not to say others won’t also find themselves out.
When asked about changes for the 2013 season, Lions President Tom Lewand told me Thursday, “I know the Fords’ first priority is to bring a championship caliber team to Detroit.”
“We certainly need to improve dramatically from this year and our entire team–front office, coaches and players–is focused on that,” he said of the team’s 4-12 record.
Lewand has been with the team, owned by William Clay Ford and his son, Bill Ford, for 18 years.
When pressed on the job security of Schwartz and Mayhew –both in their fourth season with the Lions — Lewand added, “I think the comments speak for themselves. We are all working on next year.”
“We have an obligation to our fans to give them a renewed sense that we are heading in the right direction and worth the investment of their hard earned dollars.” Lewand said in an earlier conversation when he taped “Michigan Matters” which airs this Sunday (Jan. 6) at 11:30 a.m. on CBS 62.
Lewand appeared along with businesswoman Denise Ilitch, whose family owns the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings, and Rod Alberts, executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association which puts on the North American International Auto Show.
Alberts discussed the North American International Auto Show which is open to the public Jan. 19 to Jan. 27 at Cobo Center.
He talked about renewed enthusiasm for the event amid better economic times after the global meltdown of 2008 which saw the entire state impacted as the auto sector hit rock bottom.
“We had over 700,000 people attend the show last year and if the weather is good this time we will likely beat that number,” Alberts said. “We’re also going to have 55-plus unveilings (of new products) at the show and over 5,000 media. The roar is back!”
One place that hasn’t heard much roaring of late is Joe Louis Arena as the Detroit Red Wings season has stalled amid labor unrest.
Ilitch, whose family owns the Detroit Red Wings, was mum about the status of the 2012-2013 NHL season which has been idled by a labor dispute that began Sept. 15.
The question remains whether the rest of the season will be cancelled, or whether the owners and players can work out a deal and hold an abbreviated season.
Ilitch was far more vocal about the Detroit Tigers who made it into the World Series but were swept in four games by the San Francisco Giants.
“Everyone is feeling optimistic about the Tigers in 2013 — the fans, the writers,” said Ilitch. “But it is up to the team to go out and win. Ownership can give them the resources they need but the team has to do it.”
Lewand and Ilitch have both worked together to bring high profile sporting projects to the Motor City. They were among those involved in the raising of Ford Field, Comerica Park, the 2005 Major League Baseball All Star Game and Super Bowl XL held in Detroit in 2006.
When asked about the new hockey arena her father would like to see built, Ilitch said, “Joe Louis is the oldest or second oldest arena in the country. It would be a wonderful catalyst to have a new one to help the entire area.”
Lewand, who was part of the move of the Lions from suburban Pontiac back to Detroit said, “When we moved downtown, it was a positive thing for us. We now control the stadium which was not the case in Pontiac. And we can control the experience fans can have in the stadium.”
Lewand said having the teams centralized downtown is a great thing for the Motor City’s economic prospects.
Detroit is also blessed to have community minded pro sports teams including the Lions.
Lewand talked about its “Living for the City” community initiative launched last fall.
That effort is taking on a neighborhood twist this month as the Lions team up with “Hatch Detroit” to revitalize five neighborhoods’ retail areas in Detroit — starting with the Avenue of Fashion (Seven Mile and Livernois).
“There is so much positive energy in Detroit,” said Lewand. “The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and we are trying to help with our efforts.”
Carol Cain is Senior Producer and Host of the Emmy winning “Michigan Matters” that airs 11 :30 a.m. Sundays on CBS 62. You can read her columns on business and politics in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org