| Detroit Free Press
Assessing Detroit Lions’ coach, GM searches as regular season ends
Free Press sports writers Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez debate Jan. 4, 2021, who the Detroit Lions should hire as general manager and head coach.
Carlos Monarrez and Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press
Wilbert Montgomery was running backs coach for the Baltimore Ravens when a young scout he took a liking to, while both were with the St. Louis Rams, came for a visit.
Montgomery brought the scout, Brad Holmes, into the Ravens offices, where he introduced Holmes to then-Ravens general manager, Ozzie Newsome, a Hall-of-Fame player and pioneering general manager who was one of the most respected talent evaluators in the NFL.
“I would talk to him about Ozzie Newsome,” Montgomery recalled. “And when I introduced him to Ozzie, I would tell Ozzie, ‘This is the next you, Ozzie. This guy is going to be like you someday.'”
Holmes, now the college scouting director for the L.A. Rams, is one of the leading candidates to be the next Detroit Lions general manager.
He is in Detroit for a second interview — and first in-person meeting — with team brass Wednesday, after meeting via Zoom with owner Sheila Ford Hamp, president Rod Wood and adviser Chris Spielman last week.
Holmes also is a finalist for the Atlanta Falcons’ vacant GM job. Though Holmes would be one of the NFL’s youngest GMs at 41 years old, Montgomery, a former Lions assistant who helped give Holmes his start in scouting, said he is ready for the role.
“Ozzie Newsome is a dear friend of mine, a good, good friend of mine,” Montgomery said. “Ozzie and I go all the way back to high school and I had the pleasure of working with Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore. I would say right now (Holmes) is very, very much a young Ozzie Newsome at this point in his career.”
Newsome, the NFL’s first Black general manager, helped build two Super Bowl-winning teams in Baltimore, the first as vice president of player personnel and the second as GM.
He was known not only for his keen scouting eye, but also for his feverish work ethic and the relationships he built, traits that Montgomery said he sees in Holmes.
“I’m just pleased to death in the things that he has accomplished and he has achieved with the L.A. Rams now, and I’m happy that, like when you said he has an opportunity to come interview for a job, I take my hat off to him,” Montgomery said. “I can tell you, they will not be disappointed. They will not be disappointed because he is going to work and he’s going to visit with the coaches, he’s going to talk with the coaches and he’s going to try to get the players in there that they’re looking for.”
Holmes played defensive line at North Carolina A&T and got his start in the NFL as a public relations intern with the Rams in 2003.
He told Yahoo in a 2019 interview that his intentions from the start always were to get into the football side of the business, and Montgomery was one of the people who helped make that happen.
Montgomery said he learned of Holmes’ aspirations over lunch one day in the team cafeteria and the two routinely stopped to chat after practice or when seeing each other in the hall.
Eventually, Holmes became a regular in Montgomery’s office, where they watched film together and the inquisitive Holmes peppered Montgomery with questions about what he was looking for in players and why.
As Holmes’ PR internship neared an end, Montgomery introduced Holmes to then-Rams GM Charley Armey, who offered Holmes a scouting internship that spring.
While Holmes mainly served as a gopher that first spring, Montgomery said he helped coach Holmes on how to write scouting reports and Holmes wrote about several players in that year’s draft.
Montgomery said he gave both his and Holmes’ reports to one of the team’s secretaries to enter into the system, and that Holmes’ work presented as that of a seasoned scout.
“Charley couldn’t tell the difference,” Montgomery said. “That was the start of his career.”
Since then, Holmes has steadily climbed the ranks with the Rams, surviving two regime changes and a move from St. Louis to become one of the most trusted members of GM Les Snead’s front office.
He has helped run the Rams’ last eight drafts and helped keep the team a playoff contender — the Rams play the Green Bay Packers in a divisional playoff game Saturday — despite not having a first-round pick since 2016.
Holmes, in a 2019 video posted on the Rams website, said the Rams’ philosophy on team building is to find passionate players, who are smart, instinctive, explosive and good teammates, and that’s what Montgomery said he thinks Holmes will continue to do as GM.
“(I told him) if anyone gets you, they’re getting a great, great — a great employee, but they’re getting a gem in you,” Montgomery said. “They’re going to get something because you’re going to make them proud of the hire.”