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O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: Quinn's top 11 decisions

The personnel wire never stopped spinning out names in Bob Quinn's first year as general manager.

It didn't matter when – offseason, training camp, regular season or the first week of the playoffs – if there was a move to be made, it was made.

It didn't matter who – high-priced free agents, deciding on which players to take with the Lions' 10 draft picks, bottom-of-the-roster veterans or a shuffle of players on and off the practice squad – no chance for an upgrade was bypassed.

A combination of the state of the roster Quinn inherited when he was hired last January, and his philosophy that no upgrade is too insignificant kept the personnel wheel churning.

"Just because you get the team to 53 (in the final mandatory cut) doesn't mean it's good enough," Quinn said in his wrap-up press conference on the season. "There's always better, and more players to look at – whether it's guys on waivers, whether it's guys on other teams' practice squads.

"It's always looking for better. I think to try to improve the last 10 roster spots is one of the most important jobs that myself and my staff have during the regular season."

Not all of the decisions Quinn made in 2016 involved players. As GM and executive vice president, he was in charge of the entire football operation. That included the hiring of the head coach.

This week's Monday Countdown rates the top 11 decisions Quinn made in 2016. Two involve the same person, for obvious reasons.

As always, feel free to disagree.

1. The start, keeping Caldwell: The first major decision hanging over Quinn was whether Jim Caldwell would be retained after two seasons as head coach, or if Quinn would start fresh and bring in a new man.

Within a week, Quinn announced that Caldwell would be back.

There was a ripple effect. It meant that there was no change in coordinators – Teryl Austin on defense, Jim Bob Cooter on offense and Joe Marciano on special teams – and there would be consistency for the players, with no adjustments to new schemes. If nothing else, consistency gave Quinn a full season to judge the players and coaching staff on their merits.

Historical perspective: Among the many missteps made by Matt Millen when he took over as president in 2001 was firing Gary Moeller as head coach and hiring Marty Mornhinweg, who had no previous experience as head coach. A rookie president and rookie head coach was a losing combination. Keeping Moeller would have given Millen a season to evaluate the team.

Not saying it would have made an appreciable change in Millen's tenure, but keeping Moeller would have been the right move.

2. The draft: This is a collective choice for No. 2, taking the entire draft as a single effort.

It was an auspicious start for Quinn and his staff. Quinn filled holes and built depth up front on both sides of the ball. It started with left tackle Taylor Decker in the first round on April 28 and continued through running back Dwayne Washington of Washington in the seventh on April 30.

The only questionable pick was taking long snapper Jimmy Landes in the sixth round. If the biggest knock on a draft is a sixth-round pick, it's a good draft – and it was.

3. Replacing Megatron: Quinn was ready to act when Calvin Johnson made it official at the start of free agency that he was retiring. Marvin Jones Jr. was the best free-agent receiver on the market, and the Lions signed him immediately. Jones' production declined after a fast start, but Jones is a starting quality receiver who exited his first season in Detroit promising to play better in 2017.

4. Signing old hand: The opening for a veteran, productive receiver was filled just before camp opened with the signing of Anquan Boldin for his 14th season. Boldin stepped into the No. 3 spot like he'd been a Lion for life. Boldin was second on the team with 67 catches and led the team with eight TDs.

5. Contract extensions: Three players from the 2013 draft got contract extensions before the season started. That ended any possible drama about them hitting the free-agent market in 2017. Cornerback Darius Slay, running back Theo Riddick and punter Sam Martin all had new deals to start the season. During the season, veteran special teams ace Don Carey was re-upped for next year.

6. Returns investment: Signing Andre Roberts in mid-June did not light up the transaction wire, but it made a splash in the end zone. He produced as the No. 4 receiver and primary returner. As the No. 4 receiver, Roberts had one TD catch, plus a reception that set up the tying TD in the overtime road win over the Vikings.

Roberts returned two punts for TDs. He was an important addition to a unit that excelled in all phases.

7. Bynes' return eases LB bind: Josh Bynes was a backup in 2014 and a starter in 2015 but was put on injured reserve in the final cuts and eventually released. He was re-signed in Week 8 and started the rest of the season. There was a need for a veteran linebacker who could step in and play, and Bynes filled it.

8. Waiver claim: Defensive end Armonty Bryant played briefly, but effectively, after being claimed on waivers from Cleveland on Oct. 4. Bryant had to serve a league-imposed four-game suspension after joining the Lions, but he was a force when he got on the field.

The pass-rush specialist played the next five games and had sacks in three of the first four before going out for the season with an injury sustained against New Orleans in Game 12. Bryant is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.

9. Safety-Safety: In a span of two days, the Lions gave themselves depth at safety by signing Tavon Wilson and Rafael Bush to play next to Glover Quin. Wilson played 15 games with 14 starts and had two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a sack. Bush played all 16 games with four starts and had two interceptions, one return for a touchdown and a sack.

Quinn doubled down at safety, and it paid off for a defense that often used three safeties, and sometimes four.

10. Culture change: It's one of those "know it when you see it" or "know it when you feel it" intangibles that provides tangible results.

In an interview at the start of the preseason, Quinn was asked about the importance of a team's culture. His answer showed a belief that a winning culture permeates an entire franchise, with the ultimate focus on the players.

"That's a great question," he said. "I think it definitely develops. You can't come in and snap your fingers and change the culture."

Quinn made substantial changes to the personnel department, including scouts and operational mode and standards. In all personnel decisions, all the I's were dotted, the t's crossed – and then submitted to spellcheck for good measure.

There was an upgrade to the weight room, nutrition and locker room amenities for the players.

One man's opinion: I'd expect more to come, but it was a significant start.

11. At the finish, keeping Caldwell: Quinn confirmed before the final game against Green Bay that Caldwell would return in 2017. There didn't seem to be any real doubt, with Caldwell's 9-7 record in 2016, a 27-21 overall record and two playoff berths in three years.

However, nothing is certain in the NFL. Quinn quashed any speculation that would have surfaced after the season.

The only question is whether Caldwell will get an extension.

Stay tuned.

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