O'HARA: GM hire step in different direction for Lions

Posted Jan 8, 2016

The Lions have taken a giant step away from their age-old method of operation by hiring Bob Quinn as general manager.

The Lions have taken a giant step away from their age-old method of operation by hiring Bob Quinn as general manager.

For the first time in decades, an outsider with NFL experience has been brought in with full authority over all major decisions related to football.

Quinn, 39, has spent all 16 of his NFL seasons with the Patriots in some capacity related to player personnel -- primarily college and pro scouting. He has been director of pro scouting since 2012.

It’s a new face at the top of the football management ladder, a new direction --  and major decisions awaiting. Chief among them is the future of head coach Jim Caldwell.

Lions players across the board have come out strongly in favor of retaining Caldwell, whose won-loss record is 18-14 in two seasons with the Lions.

There is a ripple effect involved in deciding Caldwell’s future.

One involves offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. If Caldwell stays, it’s likely that Cooter will be back. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has campaigned for both Caldwell and Cooter to return.

Another possible other impact -- but what appears to be a distinct long shot -- is that Calvin Johnson might take more time to think about whether he wants to retire. Johnson has said often how much he likes playing for Caldwell.

All indications are that Johnson will walk away after nine seasons because of injuries, but it makes sense to let him leave the door ajar for as long as possible.

One Patriots insider said late Friday that Quinn is likely to keep Caldwell.

Either way, Wood has been emphatic since being hired as president on Nov. 20 that the general manager would have the authority to hire the head coach.

Wood reiterated that last week after the final game in Chicago.

“Nothing’s changed,” Wood said. “We’re going to let the general manager hire the coach. That’s one of the primary functions of his job -- the hiring of the coach.”

Either way, the hiring of Quinn is a break from the Lions’ previous practice of promoting from within -- with one disastrous exception of bringing in an outsider.

In 2001, Matt Millen was hired out of the national TV broadcast booth and given the title of president, with full authority over football decisions. With no previous experience in football management, Millen oversaw the darkest period in franchise history until he was fired five games into the 2008 season.

Before Millen, the Lions had a long, largely unsuccessful, reign under the late Russ Thomas as GM until he retired after the 1989 season.

Chuck Schmidt was promoted from vice-president of finance to chief operating officer after Thomas retired. Ron Hughes was director of player personnel, but without authority over the coach.

When Millen was fired, Martin Mayhew was promoted from assistant GM to interim GM, then given the full title of GM near the end of the 2008 season.

Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand both were fired on Nov. 5, four days after a loss to Kansas City in London dropped the Lions’ to a 1-7 record.

By hiring a GM schooled by his experience with the Patriots, Wood may have given some insight into the direction of the franchise sought by Owner Martha Firestone Ford.

“We’d like someone to come in and build a winning program for the long haul,” Wood said Sunday. “We have talent. I’ve said this from Day One. I don’t think this is a rebuild. I still feel that way.”

Any franchise seeking stability could use the Patriots as a model to follow along with other franchises such as the Giants, Packers and Steelers. They do not make major knee-jerk decisions once they’ve found a winning formula.

Since 2001, Belichick’s second season as head coach, the Patriots have had 15 straight winning records, 13 playoff appearances, four Super Bowl championships and two losses in the Super Bowl.

The Lions had 10 straight losing seasons from 2001-10. They’ve been considerably more competitive in the last five years, with two winning records that earned playoff appearances -- 10-6 in 2011 and 11-5 in 2014. They were 7-9 in 2015, going 6-2 in the second half of the season.

Quinn arrives in Detroit with no previous ties to the Lions.

Many fans hungry for a winner hope Quinn will bring to Detroit what he leaned in his 16-year connection with the Patriots -- winning.