On Thursday, February 7, Lions general manager Martin Mayhew spoke on-camera for the first time since the end of the 2012 season. Below is the transcript of Martin's conversation with WXYZ Sports Director Tom Leyden:
Tom Leyden: You're the most senior level guy with this organization that we'll have a chance to talk to, so there's a lot questions. You've got to know that. Not only from us, but from the fans, so there's a little combination of both. I guess the natural one is, coming off a 4-12 season that most people view as disastrous, how do you, I don't know if "grade out" is the right word, but how would you summarize what you experienced this fall?
Martin Mayhew: Well it was very bad; I would put it like that. It didn't go well. As an executive here, our goal is to get it right and we have to do everything we can to get it right. We kind of understand what happened and a lot of those things as you start to explain them sound like excuses. We're not going to make excuses. We're going to perform better. I played in this league for nine years, so I'm used to being criticized. When you don't perform you get criticized in this business, and so, you know, we've got thick skin. We'll deal with that and we'll do everything we can to get things right going forward.
Tom Leyden: Let's start with the coaching staff and the coordinators. The main guys are coming back. I throw this at you: You look at a team, and I know it may not be fair to compare teams, but you look at a team like the Falcons, who after 2011, went to the playoffs and they decided that wasn't necessarily good enough and they got rid of their offensive and defensive coordinators. You decided that you wanted to stay on the same path: bring back Scott, bring back Gunther, bring back Jim. What is it about this coaching staff that you have full confidence in moving forward?
Martin Mayhew: Well one, they all have a great deal of experience and all have been very successful at different times. Going back, looking at our organization, though, from when I started here, I think the first six-seven years that Matt (Millen) was here, every year there was change. There was a new coordinator or a new head coach – every single year – and what I saw from that is really it made it all seem disjointed. It really sort of disconnected us. Our scouts who are on the road weren't sure what kind of players they should be looking for. Our players don't know what to expect from our coaches. Our coaches don't know our players and what our players can do and what our players can't do. And so you're sort of always swimming upstream in those situations, and so my experience has been to develop some continuity, some consistency.
Tom Leyden: You look at some of the guys who you have picked, from Titus Young, who had a history of some issues, some run-ins with players and coaches growing up. Bill Bentley had some history with his shoulder. Jahvid (Best) had some history with concussions. These are guys who had red flags. Do you need to do a better job of determining who you take a risk on when somebody comes into the league with red flags like that?
Martin Mayhew: I think the thing for me to do is to continue to work toward improving our draft every single year. That's what my goal is. Our draft process, our draft decision-making needs to get better every single year. And there are guys that we've taken who had risk who've performed very well for us, and likewise, guys who we've taken with no risk who haven't panned out for us. We want to keep honing the process and making it better and better, and I have confidence in our ability to make that happen.
Tom Leyden: You said today, "Titus Young had no trade value," and I know it was only one team, but one team did act quickly to claim him. Were you surprised at that and what are your thoughts on him getting picked up by somebody else so quickly?
Martin Mayhew: No, I got a call from another team as well who decided not to pick him up. You know, he's a talented guy. He's very inexpensive. We've put claims in on guys before to take a look at them and they weren't guys that we'd give anything up to get. I seriously doubt, in fact I know, St. Louis wouldn't have given us anything for Titus Young in that circumstance, in that situation, and it's my job to know, sort of, what a guy's value is. I wish him the best there. I'm not going to get into his whole situation because he's playing for a different team now. I wish him the best and I wish them the best with him.
Tom Leyden: When you look at the season that Calvin had, is there a part of you, like I know there's a part of a lot of fans, that feels that, unfortunately, it was somewhat of a wasted effort given the 4-12 record of this team?
Martin Mayhew: Wow, a wasted effort you think?
Tom Leyden: Well, it's just he plays so well, and you'd like to see that effort equate to more wins and a playoff appearance.
Martin Mayhew: It was phenomenal for me as a football fan, as a guy who's been around the game for my whole adult life; it was phenomenal to witness that. There were weeks where he was sitting there on the injury report with four different injuries and him battling and fighting through that, I was proud to be a witness of it, proud to have a part in it, in terms of putting a team around him to make it happen. It was a great achievement and that's the way I look at it.
Tom Leyden: I do too. I'm not taking anything away from what he did, but people see that, because the history here with this franchise is Barry Sanders, you know, one of the greatest running backs of all-time, and unfortunately it was never put together for him that he could, you know, make a run toward a championship and people feel that way I think a little bit with Calvin.
Martin Mayhew: I don't feel that at all.
Tom Leyden: Do you feel that you need to… what do you need to surround him with better to get this team moving in the right direction?
Martin Mayhew: I don't feel that at all and I watched Barry play, I played against Barry. It was phenomenal being on the field with Barry, and they had some seasons here that were successful, they went to the playoffs and things of that nature, so I'm thrilled with what Calvin did, thrilled to watch what Barry did and I don't share that viewpoint.
Tom Leyden: You have three guys who command booco-bucks in Johnson, Stafford and Suh. Lots of discussion about whether or not this team can move forward with big contracts focused on three players. Explain how you're going to deal with that, because it's confusing and there might be ways that you can deal with it that people don't understand.
Martin Mayhew: Right, well in terms of Calvin's contract, we re-structured his deal last year. We have him at a number that we feel is manageable going forward. We're working on doing something with Matthew and it could come a time in the future when we decide to do the same thing with Suh, so we'll get those guys down to a number that is manageable. But then the key will be drafting well and finding players who can play for you and then deciding who to extend, who to move forward with and who to pass on, who to move on from.
Tom Leyden: You're going to extend Matthew...
Martin Mayhew: Well hold on, I said we're going to work to extend Matthew, there's a big difference there.
Tom Leyden: OK, thank you for clearing that up. As you're going to work to extend Matthew, how would you assess his 2012 season?
Martin Mayhew: I thought he played pretty solid. I thought he played better in 2011, obviously. If he can put several of those years together like 2011, he's obviously one of the top guys in this whole business. Throwing for 5,000 yards in 2011 is pretty exceptional; it's only been done a few times before that. He played pretty solid. He can play better I think, but he played pretty good for us.
Tom Leyden: Your 2011 draft class. You've got two guys left now who are on your roster from just less than 24 months ago. What goes through your head when you hear that stat?
Martin Mayhew: Well, start from the fact we had five guys, total. One was a late fifth-round pick. One was a seventh-round pick. So we really had three guys in the early part of the draft that had a really good chance of being here long-term and two of them are here and are starters for us. The key thing for me is taking players that you're happy with. Obviously with Titus it didn't work out that way, but I wish him the best where he is, I sincerely do. We're happy with Mikel (Leshoure). We're happy with Nick (Fairley), and Nick played very well for us last year prior to his injury so we're going to move forward with those guys and we've got a bunch of guys from last year's class. We want to have a bunch of guys from this year's class. Sometimes things don't work out the way you want them to work out and that's what happened with Titus Young.