Detroit Lions new GM Brad Holmes is an exciting hire who wants ‘game wreckers’

Detroit Free Press

Jeff Seidel
 
| Detroit Free Press

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There is a lot to like about Brad Holmes, the Detroit Lions new general manager.

This is the guy who helped pick Aaron Donald after the Lions picked Eric Ebron.

Case closed. Drop the mic. Welcome to the Motor City.

That’s enough of a resume, by itself, to endear him to Lions fans, many of whom look at the Lions’ decision to pass on Donald as the ultimate symbol of organizational futility.

But wait.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Holmes, the director of the Rams’ drafts the past eight years, helped take Todd Gurley, who became the 2017 NFL offensive player of the year.

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This is the guy who helped build a roster that won division titles in 2017 and 2018 and played in the 2019 Super Bowl vs. New England — even though the Rams haven’t had a first-round pick in four years. The reason is fascinating.

Holmes has been raised, at least professionally, in an organization that has used draft picks as currency, as a means to get what the team needs and put it over the top, instead of just trying to draft the best available player.

The Rams traded their first-round pick to move up and draft quarterback Jared Goff at No. 1 overall in 2016. They traded another first-round pick to get wide receiver Brandin Cooks.

But then, the Rams flipped the script and traded back in 2019, to accumulate more picks — how many times have Lions fans been begging for that?

And the Rams traded their 2020 and 2021 first-round picks to Jacksonville for Jalen Ramsey, an elite cornerback.

Holmes wanted Ramsey because he is a “game wrecker.” Which is a fascinating view of what he values when building a roster.

“My whole thing was like look, I think with our current state of our team, we’ll be picking in the 20s,” Holmes told CBS Sports. “Look at our defense and look at the defenses across the league. How many game-wreckers can you acquire on defense? We already have a game-wrecker (in Donald), but I’m looking across the league and thinking golly… how many people have two? How many have two where they’re the best at their position? And they are true game-wreckers. 

“And I said Les, (Snead, the Rams GM) I’m having a hard time finding one. So if you have to sacrifice two first-round picks and we’ve had this much success without first-round picks from a draft standpoint, I said yes, please, do that as quickly as possible to make that trade so we can acquire Jalen Ramsey.”

That kind of strategy only works, if you can round out your team in the middle and late rounds.

Which is one of Holmes’ strengths.

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Eye for talent

You have to give Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp and her team a lot of credit for how they approached this hiring process.

First of all, they shot for the moon.

They went after Seattle’s GM John Schneider — and it forced the Seahawks to offer him a new contract.

And they flirted with Kevin Colbert, the Pittsburgh GM.

They checked out several potential re-treads — former general managers Scott Pioli, Thomas Dimitroff and Rick Smith. And they even looked at ESPN analyst Louis Riddick.

But they picked Holmes.

He is young, said to be a fantastic communicator with an eye for talent.

I give him credit for finding Trishton Jackson, a receiver from West Bloomfield, who started out at Michigan State and transferred to Syracuse. I saw darn near every game Jackson played in high school. He mainly was a quarterback. But he switched to receiver at MSU and Syracuse.

He is explosive, has great hands and is a gifted athlete.

But he has been playing receiver for just a few seasons.

The Rams signed him as an undrafted free agent and tucked him on their 53-man roster. He didn’t play in a game for the Rams this season, deactivated all season.

But the Rams are clearly developing him.

And they didn’t dare put him on their practice squad, or they could have lost him.

To me, just finding him is another great sign.

Monumental task

Are there some questions about Holmes? Of course.

Holmes has never been a GM. He has never hired a coach by himself. And Goff has not developed into an elite quarterback.

So he is not a home-run hire.

But it’s an exciting hire. A fascinating hire.

Because he has a track record of finding talent. That, alone, can help this organization.

But it won’t be easy.

Holmes is faced with a monumental task to rebuild the Lions.

He has to help hire a coach — the right coach. He has to rebuild the defense and figure out what to do about Matthew Stafford. But I have to believe that has already been discussed in the interviews.

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We don’t know if he will be able to effectively run an organization.

But that’s always the case when hiring a GM who hasn’t done the job.

It’s a risk.

But it seems worth it.

And it makes sense.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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