She said it was a hard decision, firing two "terrific people." But it was ultimately an easy one, an obvious one, and the only one for Sheila Ford Hamp in her first season as principal owner of the Lions.
Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn had to go. If that wasn't clear at the end of last season, it was painfully evident midway through this one. So painful that Ford Hamp held her head in her hands in the owner's box on Thanksgiving as she watched her team get embarrassed for the second week -- and the third year -- in a row.
First the 3-7 Panthers, then the 3-7 Texans. The Lions were outscored 61-25 in consecutive games to send their season down the drain. And that was it. Ford Hamp had seen enough of Patricia and Quinn.
"Honestly, yes," she said Saturday. "Ten days ago, we looked like we had a good chance to be playoff bound. Both of those games were extremely disappointing. It just seemed like the path going forward wasn’t what we wanted it to be. So we thought this was a good time to make the change.”
There's never a 'good time' to fire your head coach and general manager. Certainly not the head coach and general manager who were supposed to change the fortunes of your hapless franchise. But today is better than tomorrow, and much better than the end of the season if accountability is your aim.
So credit Ford Hamp for that.
"It’s something that’s been on my mind. I want to do the right thing by this organization and that’s the bottom line," he said. "We hoped that this season would have played out differently, but it hasn’t. It just felt like now is the time to make the change and to really begin to look forward.”
As for what comes next, Ford Hamp said the Lions will consider everything. Maybe a traditional power structure, maybe one where the head coach is also GM. Maybe the head comes from the NFL, maybe from college. She said the Lions are leaning toward employing a search firm to help them with the process and promised an "extremely thorough and comprehensive search."
The next regime will inherit a clunky roster. It will also inherit the weight of a losing franchise, which in the end was too much to bear for Patricia and Quinn. They tried so desperately to build something different in Detroit that they built something worse than what they were given in 2018.
It might behoove the Lions to hire a pair of leaders who understand the organization's history, who can appreciate the task of turning the team around.
"We can’t hide our past, that’s for sure," said Ford Hamp. "But I’m very dedicated to turning this ship around and really making a difference."
We've heard those words before. When the Lions hired Quinn and then Quinn hired Patricia, we weren't supposed to hear them again. We weren't supposed to be sitting here three seasons later preparing ourselves for another rebuild. Here we are nonetheless, hopefully the first stop on a path to somewhere new.
"It clearly wasn’t working. It wasn’t what we had hoped for when we hired them," said Ford Hamp. "It’s something we’ve been thinking about for several weeks and going back and forth. Clearly the last couple games had a lot to do with it."