Lions team president Rod Wood spoke to the media Tuesday to provide an update on the general manager and head coaching searches. He also touched on a few other organizational issues.
Wood opened the session by thanking all the people and the protocols put in place to help combat COVID-19 this year. The Lions had only five positive cases within the organization all season, and Wood commended the league for getting through an entire regular season and – fingers crossed – the playoffs and Super Bowl.
Wood also confirmed the team has already conducted head coach interviews with former Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and current Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, and said the team plans to interview Lions interim head coach Darrell Bevell today.
Here are the key questions from Wood's session:
What traits are the Lions looking for in their next GM and head coach?
Wood was very clear on the values the team is looking for in the people that fill these positions. Owner Sheila Ford Hamp, Wood and Chris Spielman developed a criteria unique to Detroit's situation. Those traits focus on leadership, culture, teamwork and awareness of each other's strengths and weaknesses.
"What we're really looking for is a culture that is open, inclusive, where everyone is pulling together as a team," Wood said. "Communication is paramount and everybody is doing the right thing for the Detroit Lions."
Wood said it's a different approach from when they hired Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia, when they were more focused on candidates because of their accomplishments instead of finding candidates that match certain criteria they've established ahead of time as a leadership group.
Why is the team conducting head coaching interviews before hiring a GM?
The Lions aren't married to a certain structure in the front office. Detroit's looking for a partnership between the GM and head coach, not one working for the other Wood said.
The Lions have talked to the GM candidates about head coaches and vice versa.
"So it doesn't require us to hire a general manager first," Wood said. "It might work out that way because we're a little bit ahead in the general manager search relative to the head coach search. But if we find the perfect head coach and we've not yet found a general manager, we're not going to wait on the coach. We're in competition with other teams who are interviewing some of the same people."
Wood said it's important to get the right coach, and if that means they'll hire a coach first, that's what they'll do.
What kind of resource has special assistant Chris Spielman proven to be?
Wood said Spielman has been good in the interviews, especially when the conversation turns to his expertise – football.
"He's also been great in the building, meeting with a lot of the coaches and players," Wood said of Spielman. "He has contacts all over the country from his media days and playing days with coaches and others. He's brought a lot of information to the table on the candidates we're considering and feedback and research, so it's been great having Chris here. His energy, as everyone knows, if you know him, is a very positive influence in the building. Great addition."
Is the interim GM group currently in place still handling team roster management during the search?
Yes. That group that includes Kyle O'Brien, Lance Newmark, Rob Lohman and others who are currently working through the team's futures contracts.
Has Wood had any conversations with players expressing their opinions on the current searches?
Left tackle Taylor Decker said Monday he'd be interested in speaking with Wood and sharing some of the things he thought worked and didn't work from a player's perspective, and offer his opinions on where he thought the organization could go from here.
Wood said he's had several one-on-one meetings with players and had meeting with the player's leadership group on Monday. Players have also stopped in to talk to Spielman on the way out.
"The lines of communication are open, for sure," Wood said.
Where does Wood stand on the future of quarterback Matthew Stafford?
Wood said they've had conversations about the roster, and obviously the quarterback position, with all the candidates they're interviewing, but deeper conversations will happen when the new GM and head coach are in place.
Stafford has two years remaining on his contract.
"Certainly everybody that we've talked to admires Matthew from afar, just as much as we admire him inside the building," Wood said.
When can the Lions interview candidates face to face?
All interviews are being done virtually, and the team plans to continue with virtual interviews through this week. Wood said once the team zeros in on a finalist or two for either position, they'll meet with them in person, but that's also subject to restrictions if they're still employed by a team in the playoffs. Until a team is eliminated, the Lions can't meet with them in person because of league COVID-19 protocols.
Wood made a good point that the virtual meetings have actually allowed Detroit to be more productive because they can conduct more interviews virtually without all the travel time.