Jim Hackett, who brought Jim Harbaugh to Michigan and tech savvy to Ford Motor Co., stopped by practice this weekend and revealed how the birth of the Bengals inspired one of the nation’s more well-credentialed businessmen.
Hackett, president and CEO of Ford, grew into a junior high-schooler in London, Ohio, at about the time his father reached out to Paul Brown in exile during the mid-1960s and told him he should really be the NFL commissioner. Brown told Bill Hackett, his All-American guard at Ohio State, what he really wanted to do was own a team and Hackett, a well-connected London veterinarian, immediately jump-started the idea with Ohio governor Jim Rhodes when he learned Brown’s son, Cleveland attorney Mike Brown, had Cincinnati in mind for an expansion team.
The restoration of Paul Brown became the Holy Grail for their father and that’s how Jim Hackett and brother Kevin ended up sharing their bedrooms with Mike Brown over the next few years when Brown met with Bill Hackett at his London home to hatch strategy. This weekend was for Mike Brown, now the Bengals president, to make Jim and Kevin feel at home.
“Can you imagine?” asked Jim Hackett, 63 as he watched his father’s vision on the Paul Brown Stadium practice fields. “Here we are in the middle of Central Ohio, which is basically cornfield country, and they’re putting together an NFL team from scratch. There’s no equipment, there’s no logo, there’s no staff and they’re trying to win the franchise. It’s an incredible moment.”
Jim Hackett, who did the unthinkable and played center at Michigan, lured Jim Harbaugh from the 49ers to Ann Arbor when he served as interim athletic director. He’s been the head man at Ford for a year, another moment in a meteoric career that has its beginnings in stripes. He remembers his father working with Mike Brown in the Hackett’s London home, legal pads out.
“They would let me in and they were scripting out the negotiations. I couldn’t follow any of it,” Jim Hackett said. “But I remember thinking, ‘I might want to be in business,’ although I didn’t know what the evolution would be.”
He also remembers his father telling the story of the legendary La Jolla hot tub in Paul Brown’s California home, where they sipped Chivas and dreamed in the early days.
“The art of the possible,” Jim Hackett said. “What could happen.”
GLENN ON LAWSON: Left tackle Cordy Glenn has been hooking up in massive matchups with right end Carl Lawson and last season’s 8.5 rookie sacks. Here’s his take on Lawson:
“He’s a freak of nature. He’s fast, but then he’s got power, and at the end of the day he’s determined to get a sack every play,” Glenn said. “For most guys in the league to be good you have to have two dominant traits. He’s got three. He’s strong, fast and his motor is, ‘I have to get a sack.’ Great motor.”
Glenn has heard the roar of a similar motor.
“It’s a motor of a guy like Dwight Freeney,” said Glenn of a future Hall-of-Famer.