By Ashley Scoby
Rod Wood admits he probably “isn’t qualified” to run any other NFL team in the country. But Detroit Lions president? That job, he feels good about.READ MORE: 23rd Annual 'A Home For The Holidays At The Grove' Comes To CBS On Sunday, December 5th
Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford announced Wood’s hiring via a statement Thursday, and Wood addressed the media for the first time Friday. His opening statement included the admission that he “is not a football guy,” but that his philosophy includes “knowing who’s smarter than you” and hiring those people as advisers.
Wood had previously been president and CEO of Ford Estates, where he “directs the delivery of a comprehensive set of financial and lifestyle management services to members of the Ford family,” according to Bloomberg.
He had also worked at Wilmington Trust Company in Delaware before joining Ford Estates, but has never had any formal experience in football.
Those experiences in business, Wood says, prepared him for becoming Lions president.
“I think I’d be crazy if I ever thought I would (run a sports franchise) but the opportunity has presented itself,” he said. “My career has taken so many turns that I would have never predicted. Sometimes you can end up in the right place at the right time. It’s been a pleasure to work with the Ford family and get an exposure to an NFL team. And from that, this opportunity just kind of presented itself. I would probably say that I’m not qualified to run any other NFL team. But I think I’m qualified to run this one because of the connection to the Ford family, understanding the business for the last eight years working with them.”
Wood said he would be in charge of the business side of the franchise, and that it would be “rare” to be involved in personnel decisions. That responsibility falls on the future general manager, which the team is in the process of looking for.
“It’ll be a clear line of demarcation,” Wood said. “I’ll be responsible for running the business side of the organization and the general manager will be in charge of the entire football side, players, coaches, etc. The only overlap might be making sure that our financial picture is sound as it relates particularly to player salaries, etc. He would be in charge of the salary cap, contract negotiations, etc.”READ MORE: MDHHS Updates COVID-19 Quarantine Guidance For Michigan Schools
Wood would not commit to a timeline of when he wants a new GM in place. He, along with Ford and her four children, are on an advisory board that will conduct the “national” search. They play on hiring an adviser to help with the process, although that person had not been hired either. Wood said the franchise plans on using all resources available, including those locally and at the NFL office. According to Wood, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called him Thursday to offer him advice.
He denied that the Lions had hired a search firm to help find a new GM. That GM, whenever he or she is hired, would have full authority over the salary cap and personnel decisions, including the decision of whether to retain or fire head coach Jim Caldwell.
Ford, on the day that general manager Martin Mayhew and president Tom Lewand were fired, promised a national search for the best leadership, although that didn’t exactly go according to plan when it came to Wood’s hiring.
“I think my advising relationship with her (Ford) kind of lead her to decide that getting me in place to run the business side was first and foremost something they needed so things could get settled down, then we could go about the search for the general manager,” Wood said. “Incidentally, I was the result, eight years ago, of a national search when the Ford family was looking for somebody to lead the family office. They searched all over the country and at that point I was living on the east coast in Wilmington, Delaware. I’m from Michigan, but I came back. So I guess it was a national search, it was just an eight-year delay to get me into this role.”
Wood, a Michigan native, is a lifelong Lions fan and says he understands the frustrations of fans. When asked what he thought was the reason for why the franchise has been unable to ever have any sustained success, he said, “I’m not sure I’m the best qualified to answer that. I think, certainly, the hope would be that we would be way more consistent, and I don’t know how you achieve consistency other than having a process that allows you to not have these peaks and valleys that we’ve experienced, and that would be primarily, hopefully, the responsibility of the general manager to build a team that we can be consistent year to year.”
On his second day on the job, Wood also visited with the team after Friday’s practice.
“Seems like a stand-up guy. He’s had a relationship with the Fords for a long time so understands I guess what Martha wants and there it is,” Tate said. “We’re excited about his opportunity and we hope that he takes advantage of it and people around him takes advantage of it and we take advantage of it and win ball games. If we win ball games, that solves all of this. You don’t have to go looking for a president, you don’t have to look for a GM, you don’t look for a head coach.”
Caldwell said that he and Wood spoke on Thursday, but that they did not talk about Caldwell’s future as head coach.MORE NEWS: More Than 100 Michigan Schools Close Due To Copycat Threats After Oxford High Shooting
Ford was not available for comment on Friday, but said in a previous statement that Wood’s experience “not only make him an ideal choice as team president, but will also help ensure a smooth and positive transition for our organization.”