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Archive for Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lions’ owner deserves 0-16 stigma

December 27, 2008

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One more loss, and William Clay Ford Sr. gets the scarlet letter he so rightfully deserves.

That’s what 0-16 means to Detroit.

Ford will forever wear that blemish. It becomes the first sentence of his NFL biography. There’s justice in The Imperfect Season becoming the 83-year-old owner’s legacy, offering some measure of payback to the frustrated and forlorn. They want the perpetrator of this poisonous climate bearing a permanent scar.

People were always upset with Ford’s 44-year stewardship of this franchise, but it’s vindictive now.

One more loss and Ford unequivocally becomes the worst owner in NFL history — quite possibly the worst in all professional sports.

Al Davis might be the craziest NFL owner ever. There is neither rhyme nor reason for some of the Oakland Raiders’ owner’s actions — firing head coaches with the ink on their first contracts still wet. But there was once a “commitment to excellence” with the Raiders.

Ford’s Lions have been “committed to exasperation.”

The Arizona Cardinals’ Bill Bidwill might be the cheapest NFL owner, perhaps explaining why the Cardinals have only one playoff victory in the last 61 years. That’s worse than the Lions’ one playoff win in 51 years. But the Cardinals are only 10 years removed from that one playoff triumph, whereas Ford is 17 years removed from his last playoff success.

And let’s not forget that the Cardinals’ return to the playoffs for the first time since 1998, winning their first divisional championship since they hailed from St. Louis.

Ford fosters an organizational culture choked by its own rampant paranoia, chronically preoccupied with the steady stream of criticism written and said about it. He once tossed around quarters like manhole covers. But he pays his minions well now and they stay fiercely loyal, adamantly defending what those on the outside see as Ford’s aristocratic aloofness.

But it’s indefensible now. I’m tired of the nice-old-man-deserves-a-break argument. Ford doesn’t deserve a championship simply because he’s been around much longer than most of his NFL ownership fraternal brothers. He’s directly responsible for one of the worst eight-year stretches in professional sports history.

If you assessed the public mood eight months ago on the greater impossibility — the country shedding its shackles of racial intolerance and electing America’s first black president, or an NFL team going winless through a 16-game parity-driven schedule, the concept of perfect football imperfection would’ve comfortably won the argument.

The Lions have one-upped Barack Obama.

That distinction doesn’t earn them a place on the inauguration stage next month, but rather a unique spot in sports infamy.

They’re going 0-16.

They’ve finally sold me on their destiny. I was once a stubborn advocate of the blind squirrel theory, especially in a league that blatantly legislates competitive balance. But the Lions finally convinced me that even dumb luck when seeking that elusive acorn doesn’t fully absolve dumb decision making.

But when searching for the next great impossibility, it’s that the Lions will never win a championship as long as Ford’s fingerprints remain on this franchise.

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