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Bill Polian: Experience a great teacher for Quinn

INDIANAPOLIS – Any bumps in the road Bob Quinn encountered in his first year as general manager of the Detroit Lions are something Hall of Fame NFL front office executive and renowned team-builder Bill Polian expects will smoothen out in Quinn's second year in Detroit.

Experience is a great teacher, and going through a full season will be invaluable for Quinn, Polian said. That is especially true for someone who came from the outside, as opposed to being promoted from within the


Quinn had worked in the New England Patriots' personnel department since 2000 before being hired by the Lions in January of 2016. It was an entirely new working environment for Quinn, one that will be familiar to him this year.

"You get to know what your routine ought to be," Polian said Thursday at the NFL Combine. "You know what you need to focus on, and what you don't need to focus on.

"Obviously, everybody in the building is knocking on your door to solve their problems. Your tendency when you're a young general manager is to try to help everybody out.

"What you wind up doing is spinning your wheels in a lot of cases. The second time around, you know, 'This is what I need to focus on.' It varies from team to team and from individual to individual."

Quinn made sweeping changes in the personnel department, and also in the scouting process. Much of the methodology came from what he learned in New England. Having the scouting staff speak the same language made the transition somewhat easier, Polian said.

"It's very important," Polian said. "It saves transition time. That's the bottom line."

At his postseason press conference, Quinn spoke about his comfort level going into his second year.

"I think one thing that we're really going to work on is focusing on the details," Quinn said. "I think we're in a much better spot this year going into the pre-draft and pre-free agency time of year.

"I've had my staff in place here for close to a year now, so we feel like we're in a much better place in terms of the preparation. Now, a lot of the heavy lifting is still to come, but I feel like we're in a good spot getting ready for the offseason."

One change Quinn did not make was in the head coach. Quinn retained Jim Caldwell as head coach after a series of meetings in Quinn's first week as GM.

By all accounts, Quinn and Caldwell have had a strong working relationship.

Polian and Caldwell have a strong personal bond from the many years they worked together in Indianapolis. Both were fired after the 2011 season. Polian had been team president since 1998. Caldwell was an assistant coach of the Colts from 2002-08 and head coach from 2009-11.

"I just think it's a question of how you feel about the individual," Polian said of Quinn's decision to retain Caldwell. "Do you feel that person is the right man for the job? If you do, keep him. If you don't, make a change.

View photos from Lions GM Bob Quinn's NFL Combine press conference in Indianapolis.

"It's not hard. The question is, what criteria do you use to make that decision?"

Having a veteran head coach is an asset for a first-year GM, Polian said.

"Anytime you have a coach who's been there before, it makes the transition much easier. He (the coach) knows the ropes. He's not learning the ropes while you're learning the ropes. It simply makes it a lot easier."

Polian was impressed with how the Lions performed in 2016. They made the NFC playoffs as a wild card with a 9-7 regular-season record.

"I thought he did fine," Polian said. "I thought the team played exceptionally well, given all the difficulty they had with injuries. Obviously, they need to shore up some positions. As Jim (Caldwell) said, they kept pounding. They kept focusing."

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