Sheila Ford Hamp says she plans to "take a deep dive" into learning all facets of the Detroit Lions' organization as she takes over the top spot in the franchise as principal owner and chairman, and she plans to come up swimming.
"I definitely plan to be hands-on and learn as much about the organization as I can and be involved in a lot of things," Mrs. Hamp said in a virtual press conference Tuesday afternoon.
"I don't plan to meddle, but I plan to be informed enough to make good decisions at the top."
It was announced Tuesday morning that Mrs. Hamp is succeeding her mother, Martha Firestone Ford, who had been principal owner since 2014. Mrs. Hamp had a close relationship with her mother and spoke passionately about the impact she made on her in taking over as the leader of an NFL franchise.
Mrs. Ford is 94, and her decision to step down was not related to any healthy issue, Mrs. Hamp said, adding that that the decision had been under consideration for some time.
"She's been a wonderful leader for this team – a role model for me," Mrs. Hamp said. "I realize I have big, little shoes to fill.
"I feel like we're on a good path; I feel like I'm well prepared for this new role. I've been by my mother's side for many major decisions."
Based on their close relationship, Mrs. Hamp, 68, seems likely to follow her mother's management style as owner of the franchise.
Mrs. Ford was hands-on in her dealings with the team and willing to make major changes.
After going 11-5 in 2014 – her first season as owner – the Lions started the 2015 season with a 1-7 record. During the Week 9 bye, she fired team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew.
In a brief speech to the media after the firings, Mrs. Ford stressed that she expected the team to compete in the second half of the season; the Lions went 6-2 through their remaining eight games. Two years later she fired Jim Caldwell after back to back seasons of 9-7.
Last December, with the Lions in the throes of an eight-game losing streak that culminated in a gruesome 3-12-1 final record, Mrs. Ford, Mrs. Hamp and team president Rod Wood mandated general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia field a playoff contender in 2020 and play meaningful games in December.
The COVID—19 pandemic may have softened that directive, but it has not diminished Mrs. Hamp's desire to win.
"I think this is going to be a weird year," she said. "I don't want to say anything about wins and losses. The overarching thing is, we want to see major improvement. At this point, I can't really say what those measures are going to be.
"I don't know what the season is going to be like. Believe me, major improvement is the goal."
Mrs. Hamp likes what Quinn and Patricia have done in building the roster in the offseason, plus the addition of two coordinators – Cory Undlin on defense and Brayden Coombs on special teams.
Quarantine measures taken to combat the pandemic forced teams to have a virtual offseason. Meetings were conducted virtually with no team organized practices.
"Nobody knows what to expect," Mrs. Hamp said. "The pandemic is unprecedented. Things change all the time.
"I do feel like we've made progress on paper. I'm very pleased with the draft and free agency. I know coach Patricia is very pleased with the meetings we had. It looks like this group is very cohesive.
"I'm looking forward to seeing everybody in action. We're expecting an improved team. I think we're going to get that."
Mrs. Hamp pointed to consistency when asked what she thinks has kept the Lions from contending more often.
"You've got to get the right mix of people, then I think stick with it," she said. "Look at a team like the Patriots. That's what they've got.
"There's been a lot of changes over the years with the Lions. We haven't been able, yet, to reach that magic formula.
"I think we're a competitive team. I just hope we can play football."