| Detroit Free Press
Here’s who Detroit Lions will play in 2021 NFL season
A look at the Detroit Lions’ 2021 opponents, home and away, in what is expected to be the NFL’s first 17-game regular season.
Marlowe Alter, Detroit Free Press
The Lions reached agreement on a five-year contract with Holmes after interviewing him for a second time Wednesday, a source told the Free Press on Thursday. ESPN was first to report the news.
Holmes, the nephew of former Lions’ first-round pick Luther Bradley, spent his entire NFL career with the Rams. He started with the organization as a public relations intern in 2003, joined the scouting department as an intern months later and worked his way into position to run the team’s past eight drafts.
Wilbert Montgomery, a former NFL running back and Lions assistant who helped Holmes catch on as a scouting intern, compared Holmes to legendary ex-Baltimore Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome.
Newsome, the NFL’s first Black general manager, built the Ravens into two-time Super Bowl champions.
“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.”
Holmes was one of at least 12 candidates the Lions interviewed for their GM job after firing Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia in late November.
The team whittled its list down to a handful of finalists, including New Orleans Saints assistant GM Terry Fontenot, but met only with Holmes for a second, in-person interview.
Fontenot is not permitted to meet with teams in-person yet, per NFL rules, because the Saints remain in the postseason and Fontenot works out of the team’s Louisiana headquarters.
Holmes, who works out of Atlanta and also was a finalist for the Atlanta Falcons GM job, is known for his bright, detailed scouting eye and inquisitive nature.
He wrote scouting reports as an intern that Montgomery said were indistinguishable from those produced by veteran scouts and coaches, and former Rams executive Tony Softli recalled Holmes making an impression with his comprehensive yet digestible presentations as a young combine scout.
“His reports were on par,” Softli said. “I mean, people were coming up to me that were part of the combine for National (Scouting Service) saying, ‘Hey, this guy can write some reports.’ I go, ‘Yeah, that’s why we hired him.’ I mean, he was good. And there’s no doubt he was going to be a college director soon.”
As college scouting director, Holmes was part of the decision-making team that took Aaron Donald with the 13th pick of the 2014 NFL draft, after the Lions passed on the three-time Defensive Player of the Year in favor of tight end Eric Ebron.
He helped guide the selection of Jared Goff over Carson Wentz with the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft. And he’s helped keep the organization competitive — the Rams play the Green Bay Packers in a divisional playoff game Saturday — despite not having a first-round pick the last four years.
Holmes, 41, has never run a building before, but Bill Hayes, Holmes’ former college coach at North Carolina A&T, said that should not be a problem for a former team captain who has natural leadership ability.
“I think he would do an excellent job (as GM),” Hayes said. “I know he’s going to put in the work. That’s the first thing about it, he’s going to put in the work, he’s going to make the effort and he’s a team guy all the way. He’s not one of those egotistical maniacs. He’s going to be a team guy. He can be trusted. He’s extremely trustworthy, so I feel strongly that he would do a super job.”
Holmes, who joins Quinn, Martin Mayhew and Matt Millen as first-time GMs the Lions have hired in the past two decades, is expected to team with owner Sheila Ford Hamp, president Rod Wood and adviser Chris Spielman to pick the next Lions coach, someone league observers believe will have experience to complement Holmes’ youth.
The Lions have announced interviews with six head coaching candidates: Darrell Bevell, who finished the 2020 season as interim head coach; ex-Bengals coach Marvin Lewis; Saints assistant head coach Dan Campbell, who served a brief stint as Miami Dolphins interim head coach; and coordinators Robert Saleh of the San Francisco 49ers, Eric Bieniemy of the Kansas City Chiefs and Arthur Smith of the Tennessee Titans.
The Lions are scheduled to meet with a seventh head coaching candidate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, the former New York Jets coach, later this week.
The team also expressed interest in at least one college coach, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, during the search process, but never interviewed Fitzgerald, who is not a candidate for the job.
Before hiring Holmes, the Lions met in person or virtually with in-house candidates Kyle O’Brien, Lance Newmark and Rob Lohman, ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, ex-NFL GMs Thomas Dimitroff, RIck Smith and Scott Pioli, and current personnel executives Fontenot, George Paton, Jeff Ireland and Ed Dodds.
Paton agreed to a six-year deal to become Denver Broncos GM on Thursday.
The Lions also had serious back-channel communications about hiring Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert, two people familiar with the conversations but not authorized to speak on behalf of Colbert or the Lions told the Free Press.
The Lions never submitted a request to interview Colbert, a former Lions executive in the 1990s who is in the final year of his contract in Pittsburgh after helping the Steelers win two championships.