Martha Ford vs. William Clay Ford Sr: Who was the more successful Detroit Lions owner?

Martha Ford took over as owner of the Lions in 2014 when her husband, William Clay Ford Sr., passed away at the age of 88. Clay Ford bought the Lions outright on Nov. 22, 1963, and he owned it up until his death.

Though Martha only owned the team for six seasons, compared to Clay Ford, who owned the team outright for 51 seasons, I thought it would be fun to take a look at who was the most successful owner.

Playoff Appearances/Wins

When it comes to playoff appearances and wins for the Detroit Lions, it’s a touchy subject. Clay Ford’s Lions teams made 10 playoff appearances (11 games) but only won one of those games. That means the Lions made the playoffs 19.6% of the time and only won 9% of those games.

Martha only owned the team for six seasons but two of those teams (33%) made the playoffs but they were 0-2 in those appearances.

EDGE: Both stink but I have to give the nod to Martha

Running the Franchise/Making Tough Decisions

To me, this one is an absolute no-brainer.

While William Clay Ford owned the team, his biggest problem (in my opinion) was that he was loyal to a fault. He kept coaches and general managers around way too long and that is not the sign of a good leader. That, coupled with the fact that he listened to his son Bill and hired Matt Millen as GM is enough to make me question his leadership abilities.

As far a Martha Ford goes, she was much more cut-throat than her late husband, though she did decide (or at least she made the final call) to keep Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia around for the 2020 season despite two horrible seasons in a row. I do believe that both Martha and William truly cared about winning a Super Bowl for the city of Detroit but neither got the job done.

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EDGE: In my opinion, a leader has to be willing to make tough calls and Martha was better at doing that than William was.

In conclusion, I truly believe that Martha Ford was a better owner of the Detroit Lions than William Clay Ford Sr. and with time, she may have gotten the team to a Super Bowl. Unfortunately, she did not take over the team until she was very old and now that she is almost 95, it was probably a good decision for her to pass the torch to Sheila.

The question is, can Sheila Ford Hamp do what her parents could not?

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