‘Classy’ Lions owner Ford earns Kraft’s respect

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Houston — Robert Kraft embodies a passionate NFL owner. A former season-ticket holder, he purchased the Patriots in 1994 and has molded the organization into a modern-day dynasty with the help of coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

Super Bowl LI will mark the franchise’s ninth trip to the championship game and eighth since Kraft bought the team. Despite a league driven by parity, New England manages to be the gold standard year after year.

It would be unfair, on many levels, to compare Martha Ford to Kraft. Ford inherited ownership of the Detroit Lions in 2014 after the death of her husband, William Clay. Martha was 88.

But in that short time, she’s been aggressive in her pursuit to turn the historically punchless franchise around, including the firing of longtime general manager Martin Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand in 2015. Ford’s search for her next GM led her to Kraft’s Patriots and the team’s director of pro scouting Bob Quinn.

“Oh, I have a special place in my heart (for Ford). She’s so classy,” Kraft said. “She takes everything in and she was thrown into that position and has handled it very well. I think the fans of Detroit should be very pleased she’s doing what she’s doing.”

As the Patriots’ success has grown, so has the team’s influence around the league.

Three of the league’s general managers have come New England, including Thomas Dimitroff, who has his Atlanta Falcons prepared to meet New England this Sunday. Kraft said he gets emotional each time he loses someone from his front office, but is thrilled to see their continued success.

Not surprisingly, Kraft sees a bright future for Quinn in Detroit.

“I think Bob did a great job,” Kraft said. “The first year of any personnel man they have to clean it out and start making it in their vision. Look, you folks made the playoffs. I don’t know how that’s happened. Things are only going to get better there. You have a good man.”


Twitter.com: @justin_rogers