ALLEN PARK, Mich. – It lasted almost seven weeks. They held more than a dozen interviews with more chatting over computers than anyone would likely want.
When Sheila Ford Hamp fired general manager Bob Quinn on Nov. 28, she promised the Lions would do “an extremely thorough and comprehensive search” for the team’s new front office head. In selecting Brad Holmes, the Los Angeles Rams’ director of college scouting, Detroit finished a search that can be described as both exhaustive and thorough.
And that’s something that can be at least a signal Detroit is trying to do things right this time.
Anyone who says they know whether Holmes will work out as Detroit’s general manager is guessing at best. It’s just the reality of any new hire in any new situation, especially someone who has not been a general manager before.
That’s not a knock on Holmes, who has done a fantastic job with helping to build the Rams through the draft even without the benefit of first-round picks the past four years, last selecting Jared Goff at No. 1 overall in 2016.
But take this from how the Lions conducted their search: It was a consistent process looking in many places, with 12 candidates interviewing from a variety of backgrounds. The Lions spoke to three candidates internally. They interviewed former general managers in Thomas Dimitroff, Rick Smith, Scott Pioli and Jeff Ireland. They met with the hot name from television, Louis Riddick, and other front-office staffers from multiple organizations and viewpoints.
They said they would be exhaustive in their hunt for someone to finally bring a winner to Detroit after 60-plus years of inconsistency. In Holmes, they believe they’ve found that person.
Detroit, unlike in its search when the club hired Quinn, came in with a specific set of value traits it was looking for in its new football leadership. They wanted someone who could work on bringing in an inclusive culture, someone who is open and willing to communicate and can be a leader.
Holmes, based on his time with the Rams, has that. He was able to adapt and be flexible enough to rise in an organization through five different head coaches and four general managers. He’s managed scouts as the director of college scouting and has a deep background in evaluating players, deciding what makes them work best and if they’d be a fit in the culture Los Angeles was trying to build.
Those are things he can bring to Detroit.
Holmes, who will be Detroit’s second Black general manager, also was at the front of the Rams’ inclusion efforts. Rams COO Kevin Demoff said he was part of the club’s leadership team on social justice and diversity issues, and these are areas that matter to Hamp as well.
Hamp was one of the first owners to say, in June, she would have no problem with her team signing quarterback Colin Kaepernick if her football staff felt he was a player it wanted. Soon after she took over as owner, she distributed "Stony the Road," a book by her friend, Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., about reconstruction, white supremacy and the rise of Jim Crow. Then she brought Gates in virtually to talk with the team about it.
This entire process for the Lions has been different. They had a group of four sit down with candidates: Hamp, team president Rod Wood, special assistant Chris Spielman and Mike Disner, the team’s cap specialist. They focused on the qualities they established they wanted instead of what people – or their organizations – had done in the past. They created an advisory committee, composed of former Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis, Fritz Pollard Alliance executive director Rod Graves and Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders, to help make calls and with the vetting process.
There were more voices involved. More opinions heard. This was something the Lions learned from when they hired Patricia, when it was Wood and Quinn traveling the country doing interviews. They also did not hire a search firm and did not have an official adviser from the NFL, like they did when they hired Quinn.
When they interviewed candidates for the Quinn hiring, Detroit interviewed three people. It spoke with four times the number of candidates this time.
“Trying to do it differently,” Wood said. “Trying to find the right people.”
We’ll find out in three or four years if Holmes ends up being the right person. For now, for today, the Lions can at least know they did what they said they were going to do. They spoke to a plethora of people and came back with the guy they feel has the best shot to finally create a winner in Detroit.