Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes spoke to the media Monday in his annual end-of-the-season press conference. Holmes began the session with a clear message to the fan base about continuing to trust the process that's turned the organization into a Super Bowl contender in just the third season of the Holmes-Dan Campbell era.
Here are my five biggest takeaways from his media session:
1. Holmes' message to fans
Going from a team that won nine games and missed the playoffs in 2022 to a 14-win team that was 30 minutes away from the Super Bowl, some might consider that a one-off or a Cinderella story.
Don't consider Holmes among them. His message to the fans Monday was that this Lions team is here to stay and a new standard has been set.
"It's only going to get better," he said. "We're only going to get better. I don't want anyone to think that this was a one-shot Cinderella magical journey that just happened. No, it's real. This is exactly what was supposed to happen."
Holmes said he's tired of hearing about the 2023 Lions being a "cute story." Every move he and Campbell made has been to sustain what they have built and are continuing to build, and he wanted the fan base to be very clear about that. This has been the plan all along to normalize winning in Detroit and that's what they plan to do for the foreseeable future.
2. Intangibles are the key now
Campbell talked last week about the young core of the roster being built here and when deciding to bring in players it isn't just about adding the most talented players but making sure the players they bring in fit their culture and have the intangibles they are looking for. It's a sentiment Holmes reiterated on Monday.
"We have to get past just looking for the most talented player," Holmes said. "In my opinion, that's the prerequisite of evaluation."
He said anyone can spot the fastest, strongest or most talented player, but to him and his staff it's about fit and intangibles just as much as it is about talent.
"How do you find the right intangibles in a football player and that's what's made us who we are," he said. "That's what I'm saying about that 2021 draft class. That was very intentional to find those guys that had the intangibles. It's not like, 'Oh, we'll wait until the fourth round to pick a wide receiver. No, we wanted (Amon-Ra) St. Brown. He had the intangibles that we were looking for to set our foundation."
One of those big intangibles Holmes is on the lookout for is grit, and he said that will never change.
3. Don't get spooked by the news feed
Don't think Holmes hasn't kept some receipts about what people in the media said immediately following some of his draft classes, especially last year's class.
"The next few months is a lot of speculation and opinions and people don't know what's going to happen but know every year we have not led them astray," he said. "Dan and myself, we've been very upfront and straight with everybody. Look, every move is intentional. Every move that we make and every move we do not make is intentional."
He had a good line when he said every move he makes is designed to help this team win in December, not in the March, April or May news cycles.
He talked about the 2021 NFL Draft and how not a lot of those picks were welcomed. Three years later, now given a chance to develop, that draft class would be graded as one of the best among the 32 teams with Penei Sewell, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Alim McNeill, Ifeatu Melifonwu and Derrick Barnes being core players in an NFC Championship Game run.
4. Draft and free agency outlook
Holmes is actually excited about picking later in the draft. Currently the Lions have the No. 29 pick in the first round. That excitement doesn't just stem from the fact that picking later means more success was had, but it also gets him back to his scouting roots where a GM has to watch the tape and pick the right players.
"Back there you are picking football players," Holmes said. "We're always picking football players, it's just that when we pick football players high you all bashed us. We'll still continue to pick football players and guys for us so really it doesn't change. Will it be different? Yes, it will be different."
Holmes also acknowledged that a number of their own core players are eligible for contract extensions this offseason and that might not leave a lot of room for some high priced external adds in free agency. He's also of the belief that's not required for this roster right now.
"We'll keep sticking to this plan," he said.
The Lions will be strategic about how their financial pot is divvied up this offseason. Holmes said they'll be smart and make the right moves. They didn't have a lot of resources in free agency after the 2021 season and improved the team. They had resources last season and improved the roster. He's done well in both scenarios.
5. Thoughts on quarterback Jared Goff
Goff is entering the last year of his contract in 2024 and could be one of the players the Lions talk to about a long-term extension this offseason.
Holmes was with Goff in Los Angeles when Goff first came into the league. As a first-year, full-time starter in 2017 Goff guided the Rams to the playoffs. In 2018, in just his second season as a full-time starter, he got the Rams to the Super Bowl. Goff lost that Super Bowl and Holmes always wondered why his career was defined by one loss in just his second season as a full-time starter.
"I don't know what more needs to be said from a leadership or performance standpoint or what more he needs to do," Holmes said of the last two seasons Goff's had in Detroit.