Detroit Lions want ‘proven head coach/GM team,’ search could last 6 weeks

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

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The Detroit Lions are moving meticulously through the vetting process for their next head coach and general manager, and their search to find “proven” replacements for Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia could last into late January.

Owner Sheila Ford Hamp said in a memo to employees Monday she is pleased with how the Lions have responded to the recent organizational changes but still is a long way from making new hires.

“This staffing change brings lots of work with it, (which) Rod and I and our advisors take very seriously,” Hamp said in her letter. “We are already deeply into researching top candidates for head coach and GM, and, as the recent internal memo stated, have already interviewed several in-house candidates for the GM job. This process will play out over the next six weeks or so, with the result being a well vetted and proven head coach/GM team that can finally take the Lions where we all so earnestly wish to go — to the top!”

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The Lions interviewed three in-house candidates for the GM job last week — vice president of player personnel Kyle O’Brien, director of player personnel Lance Newmark and director of pro scouting Rob Lohman — and are expected to begin meeting with external candidates in the coming days.

Former Houston Texans GM Rick Smith is among those expected to interview, likely next week.

Already, the Lions job has garnered widespread interest, both unofficially from candidates currently employed by other teams and officially from unaffiliated candidates like Smith, who won four division titles in Houston.

That is in contrast to the organization’s last GM search in 2016, when a handful of top candidates turned down interviews and several others were blocked by their teams.

With Rod Wood a month into his job as team president at the time and an inexperienced owner in Martha Firestone Ford, the Lions turned that GM search over to NFL consultant Ernie Accorsi, who interviewed just three candidates: Quinn, Kevin Abrams and Sheldon White.

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Wood and Hamp, who took controlling interest in the Lions in June, are heading this year’s search, with Hamp playing a more hands-on role than her mother.

Accorsi is not part of their group of advisers, a team source said.

Per NFL rules, the Lions cannot interview candidates currently under contract with other teams until after the season. At that time, they are expected to begin a third wave of GM interviews.

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While previous experience is not a prerequisite for either job, Hamp’s memo makes clear the Lions’ preference to a hire seasoned hand for at least one of the positions.

The Lions struggled the last three seasons as Quinn and Patricia learned on the job, and have employed primarily first-time coaches and GMs for the past two decades.

Hamp, in her memo, said she hoped football and nonfootball operations would work as one under the next regime and praised the team’s recent play on the field.

The Lions rallied from 10 points down to beat the Chicago Bears in Darrell Bevell’s first game as interim head coach, then lost to Green Bay Packers on Sunday, 31-24.

“It was clear that Coach Patricia’s system was not working for the Detroit Lions,” Hamp’s letter said. “We have important football games left this season and we are confident that Coach Bevell and the team are connecting in a very positive way. As we were leaving the Bears stadium after last week’s win, we heard thunderous applause and laughter flowing out of the Lions’ locker room, something we have not heard for a long time. And even after a hard-fought loss to the Packers yesterday, it was evident the team played with heart and never gave up.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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