Lionize - Transitive verb.
Definition: To treat (someone) as a very important and famous person (Merriam-Webster).
In the Motor City, to be Lionized means something different entirely.
Simply put, to be Lionized is to be indoctrinated in the principles and practices of the Detroit Lions — a team that has been at the forefront of organizational ineptitude for roughly sixty years. Their lone playoff victory in the Super Bowl era came in 1991.
Despite decades of poorly run coaching staffs struggling to prepare sub-par rosters of players assembled by incompetent front office personnel, somehow Lions fans continue to endure. And although the city carries the moniker of Hockeytown, nothing moves the needle in Metro Detroit like the Lions, even in the wake of their annually disappointing results.
Following the end of the 2015 season, another campaign which saw the Lions fall well short of expectations and the ousting of Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Tom Lewand, and General Manager Martin Mayhew, owner Martha Ford took to her chauffeured golf cart and embarked on firing tour around the teams’ Allen Park,MI facility. Puzzling to many was the retention of head coach Jim Caldwell.
Rod Wood, a Ford Executive, Ford family friend, and self-proclaimed non-football man, was brought in as President of non-football Operations, and a committee spearheaded by Ernie Accorsi was established to find the man to lead the Lions into the future.
Enter Bob Quinn — Detroit’s savior — their knight in shining football pads.
The former New England Patriots’ Director of Pro Personnel checked all of Detroit’s boxes. His scouting background and ascension through the ranks of New England’s front office left Detroiters daydreaming of a Belicheckian football utopia rich with Super Bowl championships and confetti-filled victory parades rolling through the city’s revitalized downtown neighborhoods.
However, it became clear from day one that Quinn, as the team’s new GM, wasn’t given anything close to complete autonomy. His first move was to publicly endorse the retention of Jim Caldwell and his staff — a sign that ole Martha likely had a stipulation or two regarding the hire.
Quinn then went about implementing his draft process. Most agree that his first draft was a success, bolstered by the home run selection of first-round pick Taylor Decker, who looks as if he’ll be a fixture protecting the blindside of Matt Stafford for years to come.
Then came the retirement of Calvin Johnson, the legendary wide receiver. As reported Sunday by the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett, in a rare move, the Lions recouped $320,000 of retired superstar Calvin Johnson’s $3.2 million signing bonus proration following his retirement prior to last season.
Well within their right to recover the cash, the Lions come off looking bitter, petty, and ridiculous nonetheless. As ESPN’s Michael Rothstein wrote on Monday:
It’s like two steps forward, one step back with the Lions, especially when it comes to how the public views them
Astonishingly, many fans, as if overcome by an NFL version of Stockholm syndrome, have flocked to the support of the organization on Monday with the view that Johnson had stiffed the team, practically leaving them high and dry.
Furthermore, these fans mistakenly perceive the Lion’s move as statement — from a playbook of cold, detached, and calculated business-like tactics they would expect to see from the New England Patriots. Grasping for signs of a paradigm shift toward the “Patriot way” in Lion’s front office, it’s as if these fans feel there is a new sheriff in town, and his name is Quinn.
Where to start.
- It’s certainly not a precedent the team should be setting. Given the Michigan winters, lack of marketability compared to other cities like New York and Los Angeles, and the organization’s generational futility, why add “oh, and they’ll nickel and dime you on your way out the door” to that list?
- As Dave Birkett pointed out on Sunday, even Jerry Jones and the Cowboys allowed Tony Romo to retire without going after a $5 million bonus proration.
- Calvin spent his entire career with the Lions, becoming one of the greatest wideouts in the history of the league. As he approached his later years, he never demanded a trade to a contender, nor did he leave the club in suspense on his retirement decision -- allowing them to plan accordingly for his absence.
- The $320,000 the Lions received from Johnson is enough to cover a bit more than eleven weeks of salary for a player earning the minimum in 2017. It seems like a terribly small amount of cash to recoup seeing as it has now strained, if not destroyed, a relationship with one of the greatest Lions of all time, and a player who will ultimately wind up in Canton wearing Honolulu blue.
- The Patriots have not gone after bonus money from retired their stars. Although not a perfect situational match given his health and cap figure, an example would be Jerod Mayo’s $4.4 million dead money charge on the team’s 2016 cap following his retirement.
- In fact, an even better example would be the $450,000 signing bonus given to Reggie Wayne for roughly three weeks of service in 2015. After mutually agreeing that it just wasn’t in the cards, the Patriots let Wayne keep every dime after releasing him.
If Bob Quinn and the Lions are looking to take the calculated, business-like approach, they may want to establish some credibility first by winning. Until that happens, they just come off looking like children playing a game of dress-up: Foxborough edition.
Either way, it appears Bob Quinn is well on his way to becoming Lionized.
Go ahead, follow Brian Phillips on Twitter - @BPhillips_NFL