How new general manager Brad Holmes ‘blew’ the Lions away

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
| The Detroit News

The first time Brad Holmes interviewed with the Detroit Lions, he was chasing a dream, doing anything he could to get his foot in the NFL’s door. On Tuesday, more than 18 years later, he was introduced as the franchise’s new general manager. 

A public relations intern for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks in 2003, Holmes was looking for a way to transition into football, the sport he played in college. So when the Lions had a similar opening in their PR department, Holmes flew to Allen Park for an interview.

He even got offered the job, but he opted to take a similar opportunity with the Rams. It proved to be a fortuitous decision. There he was able to make connections that allowed him to transition into scouting, his true passion, which led him to this moment, the pinnacle of his profession. 

“It’s really funny how everything went full circle,” Holmes said.

The Lions ultimately interviewed a dozen candidates to fill their vacancy, to replace Bob Quinn who was fired in November, and according to the four individuals involved in the process, Holmes made it clear from the start he was the right choice to lead the franchise into the future. 

That’s amazing when you consider he wasn’t even initially under consideration. 

When the Lions began gathering intel for their general manager search, Holmes wasn’t part of those early discussions. It wasn’t until Mike Disner, the team’s vice president of football administration, stumbled across a prerecorded video provided by the league office that sent him rushing to president Rod Wood’s office. 

More: Recap: What new Lions GM Brad Holmes said in his introductory press conference

“Mike Disner did a lot homework and a lot of research in this process for us, came across this interview of Brad’s and he went into Rod’s office and said, ‘You have to come in here and see this,” owner Sheila Ford Hamp said. “Just watch for five or 10 minutes and you’re going to go crazy.’ Rod did and he goes, ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve got to interview this guy.'”

Holmes was Detroit’s 10th interview, virtually meeting with Ford Hamp, Wood, Disner and Chris Spielman on Jan. 6. By the time the multi-hour meeting concluded, the hiring team knew they had found their guy. 

More: Report: Lions bringing in Saints’ Aaron Glenn to be defensive coordinator

“I think when you’re trying to hire somebody for these types of positions, obviously experience would be valuable, but you’re also trying to project what they might become,” Wood said. “In that case, I think Brad blew us away. I’m a very big first-impression person and usually within two or three minutes of every interview, I’d write a quick note to myself on what was my first impression, and my first impression of Brad was, this is the guy.”

Ford Hamp said Disner, a diligent note-taker paused during Holmes’ interview when he reached a similar conclusion. 

Unlike many NFL interviews, which have a rigid format and are run by a moderator, the Lions went for a more personal, free-flowing approach. Holmes, who interviewed for both Detroit and Atlanta’s openings, admitted having plenty of nerves coming into the process, but was quickly calmed with the instant connection he made with Ford Hamp. 

By the end of the interview, he said it felt more like it was a group of friends chatting around a fire. 

“You know, sometimes you just get that feeling when you know something is right, it just feels right,” Holmes said. 

More: With Saints eliminated, Lions can move forward with Dan Campbell, presumed front-runner

Holmes’ ties to Detroit run deeper than an interview for an internship nearly two decades ago. His uncle, Luther Bradley, was a first-round draft pick for the Lions and remains active in the team’s alumni association. Holmes said he and his family would regularly travel to Detroit for the holidays, where Bradley regularly shared the city’s passion for football. 

Now Holmes will be tasked with doing what many have tried but none have succeeded — at least not for the past six decades — building a consistent winner capable of capturing the city’s first Super Bowl championship. 

As he spoke to the media for more than 40 minutes on Tuesday, there were some clear signs of nerves, demonstrated by a gentle swaying as he talked. But his enthusiasm for the task at hand, which he regularly referred to as the process, was even more noticeable. 

The Lions don’t have a coach in place yet and weren’t answering questions on that search even though it’s expected New Orleans Saints tight ends coach Dan Campbell will be announced in the coming days. 

Once that deal is finalized, Holmes is eager to get to work on evaluating the roster, part of what he deems a collaborative process toward building a winner. 

“In terms of the purpose and the vision here, it’s not complicated,” Holmes said. “You know it will be through a collaborative approach. We will build a winning and inspired culture to serve a great football product to this great city of Detroit, so we can compete for championships on a consistent basis.

“And I stress the word serve,” Holmes said. “I know that the general manager position, it’s a lot of different responsibilities, but I truly believe that it is a service role. With that vision, anybody that’s been to another introductory press conference, you’re probably saying I’ve heard it all before, I’ve heard this before, but I will say this, there will be no ego in this process. There will be no ego in the culture. Everything is about the team. Bottom line.”

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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