Kyle O'Brien enters his 18th season in the NFL and his fourth in Detroit as the Lions' vice president of player personnel. He took the time to spend a few minutes with detroitlions.com after Thursday's North Team practice to talk a little about the Senior Bowl, the Lions' 2019 season and what's ahead for Detroit in 2020:
What's the biggest benefit to coaching the Senior Bowl this week for the personnel department?
O'Brien: "We get to answer a lot of our questions early. Also [we get to] see it put into practice and stop theorizing about it. We've been able to sit in the meetings as well, so as the coaches are teaching, we're sitting there evaluating. Who's watching? Who's paying attention? Who's picking it up? Who's asking questions? Who's got a good vibe for what we're trying to accomplish?
How important is that head start on these prospects for your department?
O'Brien: "You only have a certain number of interviews you're allowed at the (NFL Scouting) Combine and this year, with the new format, we have less formal interviews. So, that definitely helps."
Where is this Senior Bowl class strongest?
O'Brien: "Obviously, it's been changing a lot. The roster rotates a lot this week, but I think the o-line, the d-line, the DBs, some of the wide receivers and some of the QBs that are here."
When you look at the 2020 draft class as a whole, what are your overall impressions of the class?
O'Brien: "I think it's a good, deep draft. Obviously, everyone is talking about the top two spots, but I'd say it's a good, deep draft."
GM Bob Quinn said after the season it was going to be more difficult evaluating this past season because he couldn't point to one thing that led to 3-12-1. Have you found that to be the case?
O'Brien: "It's like one of those things where when you're in it, it's tough. You're getting hit from one side and then the next. So, sometimes having the opportunity to take a step back and say, 'Okay, this led to that. That led to this. And to minimize this, so we don't get that, we need to get a little more help here. We thought this was going to be a strength, turned out not to be. We need to readdress that. We can depend on this. This is an area we're not so sure. We're going to have to put some effort and resources into that.'
"Really, it's just kind of taking some time, taking a step back, and just see how the dominoes fell. How this one knocked that one over and led to that one going down, because when you're in it, sometimes it's hard."
What are some areas where you think this team needs to take the biggest leaps?
O'Brien: "I think there's a good foundation here. I really do. I believe that. We just need to keep taking that step forward and having the young guys take that step forward.
"To be honest, it sounds bad, but I've been blessed to be a part of five Super Bowl teams and I've been a part of teams that didn't do too well. If you approach the losing season the right way, you can actually learn a lot more from those than when everything is running right, because when you're running right, everything is just running, and you take certain things for granted.
"When you have to face some adversity, and you take a step back and look at it the right way, and say, 'alright guys, you're not a rookie anymore. You went through some stuff last season. So, let's hit the ground running, and even though you're a second-year player, let's go.'
"I think it gives our young guys and some of the guys we brought in the last year or two, it hopefully gives them something to rally against. We truly believe we're better than this, but now it's up to us to prove that. So, let's go."
What's the biggest thing you've learned over the last four seasons as vice president of player personnel for the Lions?
O'Brien: "Ignore the noise. Do your job. Stick to what you believe in."