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Sheldon White may be in tough spot to become full-time Lions GM

Sheldon White is well-respected around the NFL, but he may not be the right fit for the Lions. AP Photo/Paul Sancya

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Sheldon White made the argument at his first news conference. He wanted to be Detroit’s full-time general manager. To become that, the team had to win.

This was back in November, after team owner Martha Ford named White interim general manager with the 1-7 Lions having the worst record in the NFL. Things have changed. The Lions have won, going 6-2 over the second half of the season to put up a mediocre, but losing, record.

White, who has been Detroit’s interim general manager for two months, is a candidate for the full-time job. Through no fault of his own, though, that might be a tough sell to the fan base because of his ties to the Matt Millen and Martin Mayhew eras.

White is a well-respected personnel man in the league. He was mentioned as a potential candidate for Philadelphia’s general manager spot last season and is a hard worker with a strong eye for talent.

But he still is connected to the past, so if Ford wants to make a bold statement about the franchise’s future, Detroit might have to go in another direction.

White kind of got a raw deal in this scenario, as would almost any interim general manager put into his position. White was promoted into the interim role after the NFL trade deadline, so there was going to be only so much he could do to try to shape the roster into a winner.

White couldn’t make any big moves like his predecessor, Mayhew, did when he traded Roy Williams while he had the interim tag during the 2008 season. All White could do was shift players on his own roster, scour free agency and the waiver wire and make as many back-end roster moves as he possibly could.

He did well with his limited options.

Claiming C.J. Wilson -- whom White mentioned multiple times during his only news conference -- was his first move and gave Detroit a space-eater in the middle of the defensive line who helped solidify a struggling run defense.

White also brought back cornerback Crezdon Butler, who was cut after training camp, and Butler broke up an Aaron Rodgers two-point conversion pass in the end zone to help the Lions beat the Packers in Wisconsin for the first time since 1991.

And he cut oft-injured offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, who began the 2015 season as the expected starter at right tackle but couldn’t stay healthy and struggled when he was in the game. He was a restricted free agent after the season and clearly not in the Lions' plans, so they let him go.

It was a smart, decisive move that might not have happened under previous regimes. He showed that conviction under Mayhew as well.

White saw potential in former Lions defensive end George Johnson before the 2014 season and persuaded Mayhew to sign him. Not only did Johnson -- who was about ready to give up football -- make the Lions, he had a career season before heading to Tampa Bay.

It was White who persuaded Mayhew to take a shot on veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis as well. Not only did Mathis give the Lions two strong seasons before being injured this season, he became a mentor to then-rookie cornerback Darius Slay, and his advice is part of the reason Slay has turned into one of the league’s top cornerbacks.

White has made positive impacts with this franchise, but it's a franchise with an unsuccessful past. And hiring someone connected to that past as the full-time GM may not be a very popular decision.