Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn and team president Rod Wood flew to Massachusetts during the first week of the postseason when the New England Patriots were on their bye, and interviewed then Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia for their vacant head coaching job.
Wood and Quinn had already interviewed five other candidates, but left the initial interview with Patricia knowing he was their man.
"I think overall Matt's answers really just were very aligned with what I believe in and what I really believe will take us to that next level." Quinn said of the interview process with Patricia.
But Quinn and Wood couldn't officially hire Patricia until after the Patriots season was over due to the league's tampering rules. That lasted nearly a month after their initial interview with Patricia because New England made it to the Super Bowl.
Coaches can be re-interviewed during the bye week leading into the Super Bowl, which the Lions did with Patricia, but not being able to make anything official or even being able to talk about it publicly gave the Lions a late start on staffing decisions and roster evaluations.
A proposed rule change was tabled at the NFL League Meetings last offseason that would have allowed clubs looking to hire a new head coach to negotiate with coaches whose teams are still alive in the playoffs rather than forcing them to wait until their season ends.
Teams in favor of the rule change argue that it will help even the playing field. As it currently stands, new hires from teams eliminated from the playoffs have the advantage of setting up their rebuild weeks ahead of other teams left waiting.
It's a rule change Wood hopes the NFL addresses again this offseason, now having gone through a long interview process himself.
"There was a consideration last year to make a change to that rule, which I think in light of our situation, and maybe what happened in Indianapolis, it even makes it more appropriate to reconsider it," Wood said.
Wood is referring to Colts general manager Chris Ballard, who followed the NFL's rules to hire Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as his next coach. McDaniels and the Colts agreed on a deal, though nothing could be officially signed until after the Super Bowl, only to see McDaniels back out the day before his scheduled press conference, leaving the Colts in a tough spot.
Indianapolis has since hired former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich to be their new head coach.
"I think it's tough on the candidates," Wood said. "Matt (Patricia) and Josh (McDaniels), Pat Shurmer (new Giants head coach hire) obviously had to wait too (as former Vikings offensive coordinator making it to NFC Championship Game). It's tough on the teams waiting for those candidates.
"I understand the rationale about not disrupting the season of someone in the playoffs, but I think there's a way maybe to have both sides be happy. Have the coach focus on winning the playoffs, and also have the other team that they're maybe going to join prepare for the season and start to build a staff and everything else.
"I hope they revisit that rule. If they brought it up again, I'd be in favor of it."