Detroit Lions’ front office moves aren’t just selling hope. They’re building confidence

Detroit Free Press

Jeff Seidel | Detroit Free Press

I check my glass — nope, I’m not drinking alcohol.

I look in the mirror — there are no red marks or bumps, no obvious signs that I’ve been bonked on the head. And I haven’t walked through a hazy parking lot before a Jimmy Buffett concert, not lately at least.

So my system is clean, and I am trying to judge the Detroit Lions’ moves over the last month with a clear-headed, rational point of view. Still, this isn’t easy because everything I’m about to say something that goes against everything I have known about this organization for most of my life.

The Lions have done the unthinkable: Over the last month, they have completely changed course and have started down a path that could lead to long-term, sustained success, at least potentially.

“Potientially,” a complicated and loaded word, I know.

But since the Lions fired Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn, every move has made sense: the people owner Sheila Ford Hamp has hired, the people those people have hired and the changes all of those people are making.

It’s like the world has flipped upside down and this once proud organization suddenly looks competent.

Some rightfully questioned Brad Holmes’ lack of experience as a general manager. Yet, he just pulled off the biggest trade in franchise history, flipping Matthew Stafford for two first-round draft picks, a third rounder and a quarterback with Super Bowl experience; a monster haul that could change this franchise for the next 10 years.

Previously: Lions’ new regime impresses by trading Matthew Stafford, emerging with nice options

Related: Lions ‘didn’t feel like waiting,’ canceled head coach interview

More: Stafford trade shows how big a rebuild Holmes has on his hands

Some rightfully questioned Dan Campbell’s head coaching experience. He has surrounded himself with all kinds of experience, including two former head coaches.

Quick caveat because I’ve been conditioned to be skeptical of this organization: the Lions could still blow all of these draft picks. They could do something boneheaded, like bring in a bunch of ex-Patriots, out of organizational habit. Campbell still hasn’t proved himself as a head coach, and Holmes hasn’t built a team yet.

But after seeing what this organization has done over the last two months, this looks like a competent group with a singular goal: to build something that will last.

And they are actually moving in that direction.

Who saw that coming a few months ago?

Trading Stafford sounds like ‘Same Old Lions’ but here’s why that’s wrong ]

An impressive stockpile

Think about this:

The Lions have a general manager with a track record of finding talent in the draft.  And now, he has five first-round draft picks over the next three years. That should be five starters — or a quarter of a team.

Right now, the Lions have 12 picks in the first three rounds over the next three years. That’s half a team of starters.

Not all of these picks will work out, of course. And we don’t know if Holmes can build a roster.

But he sure can manage a trade.

Lions reportedly turned down Carolina’s No. 8 pick this year for Stafford ]

Looking for pieces, not parts

A short time ago, we didn’t know if Holmes knew how to build an organization — and then he hired former Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey as a senior personnel executive.

Dorsey is the ideal person to evaluate this class of quarterbacks. He’s the guy I want in the room when the Lions decide what they will do with the seventh pick. Dorsey moved up in the draft to take Patrick Mahomes with the No.10 pick; the Chiefs were scheduled to pick No. 27 that year.

Dorsey drafted Baker Mayfield when others thought he was too small.

And then, there’s Holmes. He took Aaron Donald, when other teams thought he was too small, not to mention a boatload of other players.

If Dorsey and Holmes are not sold on a quarterback at No. 7, they have other options. They can trade back or they can bundle what they have to move up.

Or they could take Penn State’s Micah Parsons. I love the idea of seeing him play on defense for the next 10 years or so. He could be a foundational piece.

Then again, I wouldn’t be upset if they moved down in the draft and found even more talent.

That’s how you build a winning team and sustain success: talent accumulation.

“Brad and I, I’m not kidding you, we are looking two years out, three years out,” Campbell told the Free Press. “And so everything to me starts two years out, and it doesn’t start right now.”

This is a new way of thinking for Lions fans, and it’s going to take some time to get used to. Lions fans have to start thinking about foundation pieces, not parts.

Lions fans have to be patient and see the big picture, not just a jumble of jigsaw pieces.

Lions finally getting it right

Everything seems to be in sync right now.

This Stafford trade only happened because ownership and the front office are clearly on the same page.

This trade only happened because Campbell and Holmes have long-term deals.

But this trade should also have another benefit.

The Lions did right by Stafford. They didn’t trade him to the Patriots, a team he reportedly did not want to play for. They sent him to a playoff team. It didn’t turn into an ugly war of words. It didn’t turn into a lockout. There wasn’t any sense of animosity between both sides.

There was a classiness between Stafford and the Lions, on both sides.

The Lions actually got this one right.

It’s like, once and for all, there is competence flowing from ownership, through the front office and into the coaching staff.

All right, obligatory caveat here: I know they haven’t drafted anybody. I know they haven’t won a game. And I know this could all still go down in flames — same as it ever was. It’s far safer to be skeptical.

But right now, after just a few weeks on the job, we have seen enough of this regime to have a shred of confidence. The Lions have some pieces now, and an organization and coaching staff in place to create some hope and potential — yes, I’m stressing potential — to build something that could last.

That’s a long way of saying: even though it sounds crazy, even though it goes against everything we have seen from this franchise in the last 50 years, this just might work.

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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