Explaining Chris Spielman’s role with Detroit Lions: He will help identify next coach, GM

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

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The Detroit Lions hired Chris Spielman for the newly-created front office role of special assistant to chairman Sheila Ford Hamp and president Rod Wood. That’s a vague title, and Spielman will wear a variety hats in the position.

He and Wood spent about 35 minutes in a video conference with reporters Tuesday explaining his role, and how it came about. Here are the highlights:

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Job hunt

Spielman will take part in the Lions’ coach and GM searches. He said his first order of business is to help “identify who gives us the best chance for success” based on the vision Hamp and Wood have for the Lions.

He will take part in both coach and GM interviews, including several the organization has scheduled before Christmas, and will meet with the three internal candidates the Lions spoke with last week about the GM job.

“What I’m interested in is giving my services to give the Lions the best chance to build something of a culture of, like I said, the identity of the feeling of being a Lion to succeed,” Spielman said. “And then we have to work hand-in-hand to find those two guys, match them up, and make the best decision possible.”

Hands off

Spielman will not play a role in assembling the roster going forward. Spielman has been around football his entire life. He grew up the son of a high school football coach, was an All-Pro linebacker for the Lions and has spent most of the last two decades as a TV and radio analyst, but Spielman admitted Tuesday, “I’m not qualified to be a general manager.”

The job of acquiring talent, through the draft, free agency and trades, will fall on whoever the Lions hire to be GM.

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Who’s the boss?

Neither the GM nor the coach will report to Spielman. Wood said Spielman “won’t have any direct supervisory responsibilities” once the coaching and GM searches are done. The Lions remain open to toggling their organizational structure, but that determination will not be made until they fill both positions.

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“I think that was why it was so critical to get him involved early because I wouldn’t want to bring him in after we’ve hired a general manager or after we’ve hired a coach and have them wonder what his role is,” Wood said. “That will be very clear to them while we’re interviewing the candidates, and he’s part of the process of hiring them so he’s going to be invested in their success. And he’s going to be available to them as a resource, however they choose to use him in the best possible way.”

The future

Spielman’s role in 2021 and beyond will go beyond football. Wood said Spielman will be “very involved in all parts of the organization,” including working with “some of our large corporate partners and sponsors and helping motivate everybody in Ford Field that’s working more on the business side.”

That goes hand-in-hand with Hamp’s internal email to employees Monday that the football and non-football sides of the organization will work as one under the next regime.

“Really having that culture between the organization, two buildings, football and business, be one, and I think Chris will do a great job at that,” Wood said. “His role will probably go directions I can’t even predict right now because I think he’s ’ going to be another valuable asset, not only to me but to Sheila and to the whole organization, in ways that will grow over time.”

Spielman said he sees himself as a servant to the organization.

“There’s one goal right now is to get the best coach and general manager that’s best for the Detroit Lions and to help that happen,” he said. “And for me, once this is all in place, think of me as a servant. What do you need? … Whatever is needed to be done, and however I can help the team in any way, that’s my job. And I am there just to serve. That’s my goal. And that’s what I intend to do.”

Following footsteps

Spielman said he does not envision himself following other former player-turned broadcasters into the GM seat one day. 

Never say never. Certainly, the Lions trust in his football expertise, otherwise they would not have brought him aboard. But Spielman said Tuesday he does not have ambitions to follow the likes of John Lynch, John Elway, Martin Mayhew or Matt Millen into a GM job one day.

“No, I just love football,” he said.

‘You are part of us’

And the Lions.

Spielman said his travels as a broadcaster with Fox, and conversations with his brother, Rick, the GM of the Minnesota Vikings, have helped him understand what works and what doesn’t in the NFL, and what type of culture the Lions need to create to succeed. 

“A culture of, if you put on a Lions shirt, it actually means something,” Spielman said. “It’s not just a shirt to sleep in or to work out. It means something when you put that Lions shirt on. Whether you’re a fan, whether you work in the building in any capacity, you are one, you are part of us.”

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

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