Between its blighted houses, shrinking population, downsized auto industry, high crime rate and scandalous “hip-hop mayor,” Detroit has come to symbolize despair. The coolest thing about the Motor City lately had been those Chrysler commercials with the Eminem beats.
But the city is enjoying a revival of sorts under former NBA star and businessman Dave Bing, who was elected mayor in 2009. And now another athlete-turned-executive is doing his part for Detroit’s rebirth on the football field.
As general manager of the Detroit Lions, Martin Mayhew heads the NFL’s most resurgent team. Following their victory against Chicago on Monday Night Football, the Lions are 5-0 for the first since 1956. Just two seasons removed from an NFL-record winless campaign (0-16), the Lions have won nine consecutive games dating to last year.
Mayhew, 45, is a poster child for working one’s way up. He wasn’t a star during his nine seasons as an NFL cornerback, but he was steady and heady, as evidenced by his law degree from Georgetown in 2000, four years after he retired. He served a nine-month internship in the Washington Redskins front office while working on the degree and launched his second career in 2001, when he joined the Lions as a low-level executive.
Eight years and three promotions later, Mayhew was tasked with turning around one of the NFL’s most moribund franchises, and he’s earned rave reviews ever since. The Lions were a colossal failure under his predecessor, Matt Millen, whose eight-year tenure as head of the franchise gave Detroit the league’s worst-ever eight-year record (31-97).
But Mayhew took the few successful draft picks Millen left behind — including superstar receiver Calvin Johnson — and began the massive rebuilding job that made Detroit a playoff contender, according to some observers, as the season began.
The Detroit Tigers have stumbled by losing the first two games in the American League Championship Series, putting even more pressure on the Lions to keep the city’s good vibes going. Judging by the returns, with less than three seasons under his belt, Mayhew is well-equipped for the job.
In other news: New Sentencing for Mumia Abu-Jamal.