GM Mayhew takes responsibility for Lions’ 1-6 start

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Chandler’s Cross, England — Lions players, coaches and executives are all responsible for the 1-6 start this season. Yet, after most of the losses, coach Jim Caldwell would shoulder the blame publicly.

In his first media address since the season began, general manager Martin Mayhew spent some time pointing the finger at himself for the team’s issues, but used more time to express his confidence in the Lions as they try to recover.

Mayhew said he drafted, signed or extended every player on the roster, so he believes they can contribute. He also was instrumental in hiring Caldwell, and still believes the coach is the right man to turn the season around.

As is often the case in the NFL, however, a bad season can lead to turnover, and Mayhew sounded like a man who knows he’s battling to keep his job.

“I’m the GM right now, and we’re going to go play Kansas City,” Mayhew said. “And I’m going to keep working until somebody tells me to stop.

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“I’ve been in this business for my entire adult life, so I know that when you win, you get rewarded. When you don’t win, there could be some negative repercussions from not winning. My focus is on winning football games, and it starts with Kansas City (on Sunday).”

Since Mayhew took over in 2009, the Lions are 41-62 overall, 0-2 in the postseason. But he believes his process can help the team win.

And in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business of the NFL, the best way to keep a job is winning, and time will tell how content owner Martha Firestone Ford is with Mayhew and other members of the front office.

“The family’s very disappointed,” Mayhew said. “They’re very passionate. They love this organization; they love this football team. They understand what this football team means for our community, so they’re very disappointed in our performance thus far. But there’s a lot of football left to be played.”

After working for late owner William Clay Ford Sr. for much of his tenure in Detroit, Mayhew is now at the behest of Martha Ford, but declined to say how the change in ownership has impacted his day-to-day job.

The Lions fired three assistants Monday — offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn and assistant offensive line coach Terry Heffernan — and though Mayhew said they weren’t solely responsible for the issues, he hopes the changes made by Caldwell will make a positive impact.

Like Caldwell, Mayhew said he’s constantly evaluating his scouting department, but ultimately, realizes any problems with the roster come back to him.

“I’m responsible for our football operation so it is on me what has happened this season,” he said.

But, now is not the time to review the season because the Lions still have more than half their games remaining, Mayhew said. Watching the team prepare continues to give him confidence it can win because he expects some payoff from the players’ attitudes and staff approach.

Mayhew, who acknowledged he has to do a better job drafting to help the team improve, also said he hopes to be a “buyer” before Tuesday’s trade deadline.

“There’s no quit in us, and we’ll fight,” he said.

When asked about how much last year’s 11-5 finish can help Caldwell remain with the team, Mayhew said it’s too soon to tell, in part because it’s too soon to tell what’s to come for himself.

“I don’t know if I have enough capital from anything ever for me to start talking about other people’s situations,” he said.

If the Lions can reverse their trend of ugly losses, perhaps Mayhew, the scouts, coaches and players will feel more comfortable about their futures.

“That’s the only way out is to start winning, and to win every game we have an opportunity to win,” he said. “We have a chance to win this game on Sunday, and we’re focused on that.”