In 2012, the Lions suffered through a plague of arrests and off-field issues. With the arrival of coach Jim Caldwell in 2014, the Lions opted for a different approach.
“Jim has a great saying, a great thing that he lives by and that he espouses to the team,” CEO Tom Lewand said Wednesday at an event for the Kensington Community Church, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “It’s very simple. He doesn’t believe in a lot of rules, but he encapsulates it in a great way. He says, ‘Do right and fear no one.’ Do right and fear no one. You don’t have to worry about a whole lot else if you do right. You don’t have to worry about a lot of those things. And those are the kind of players that we look for.”
The Lions are now gravitating toward players who exude high character and/or who demonstrate maturity and stability. The team, as Birkett notes, has drafted five players in the last two years who were married or engaged.
“This group that we have that we drafted and signed as free agents is probably the best group of players as [far as] checking the three boxes of physical talent, emotional intelligence and maturity and work ethic that I’ve seen in maybe the 21 years I’ve been with the Lions,” Lewand said. “And we’ve got players coming in here who have a previous disposition to doing the right thing, whether that’s how they work off the field, whether that’s how they work on the field, how they prepare, their love of the game.”
In looking for players who “do right,” the Lions are tiptoeing through a potential minefield by incorporating Christianity into their business approach. Lewand mentioned that he, Caldwell, and G.M. Martin Mayhew gather for weekly Bible study, and that their shared values have “a lot” of influence over the construction of the roster.
“There’s not a test that we put guys through,” Lewand said. “Are you a Christian? What’s your religious background? Or anything like that. Far from it.”
Lewand is smart enough to know that no employer can make decisions based on religious beliefs and/or practices. But when all things are equal between two players and the Lions know one is a Christian and one isn’t, will that be a factor in the decision regarding which one has a job and which one doesn’t? If so, that could be a problem, from a legal perspective.
From the franchise’s perspective, however, that’s a much better problem to have than a locker room with more than a few guys who don’t know how to “do right.”