By Sean Chase
Less than two months after firing general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia, Lions Owner Sheila Ford Hamp moved quickly to find their replacements.
While the Lions are no strangers to filling head coaching vacancies, this time the process was handled differently. Quinn’s position was the first to be filled when the Lions ownership announced the hiring of Brad Holmes, former Los Angeles Rams scout, as the new general manager for the team.
“On behalf of the entire Lions organization, I am thrilled to welcome Brad Holmes to Detroit,” said Ford Hamp, in a statement. “Several weeks ago when we embarked on this process, it was critical that we find the right person to fit our vision for this team. It was evident early on that Brad is a proven leader who is ready for this opportunity. We are thrilled to introduce him to our fans as a member of our football family.”
Holmes began his career as public relations intern for the Rams in 2003, before transitioning into the scouting department the following year. By 2013, he had worked his way up the ranks of the team and into the role of director of college scouting for the organization.
While his knowledge and credentials impressed Ford Hamp. He also had to gain the approval of the team’s president and CEO, Rod Wood. Though he wasn’t on the radar of many teams going into the offseason, his time evaluating players who became prominent pieces for the Rams proved too much to ignore.
“Throughout our search for a new general manager, Brad was someone who stood out immediately,” said Wood, in a statement. “His abilities as a critical thinker, along with his extensive experience implementing technology and analytics into his approach to scouting, were among the many decisive qualities Brad displayed in our time getting to know him during the interview process. We look forward to him helping lead our organization as we take the next steps as a team.”
After Holmes’ five-year deal was introduced, he spoke on his vision for the team’s future and what he will look for in the next head coach of the Lions.
“I’ve always had in my mind when I’ve looked at a head coach, I never had a preference of ‘he’s going to be an offensive coach, he’s got to be a defensive coach, he’s got to come from, he’s got to run this system, he’s got to run that system,’ ” said Holmes, to the Detroit Free Press. “My number one core trait was first of all he’s got to be a leader of men. He’s got to be a leader of men, he’s got to have presence and within that presence, he’s got to have poise, he has to have confidence, he has to have command, he has to have mental toughness, he has to have intelligence.”
Once the dust settled, Wood and Holmes went to work to find someone who could turn their vision into success on the field. In less than a week, they had found what they were looking for, when the New Orleans Saints were eliminated from the NFL Playoffs, allowing the Lions to interview their assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell.
Soon after they were allowed to speak with the Saints assistant, the Lions front office announced they had agreed to terms on a six-year contract with Campbell, making him the 30th head coach in franchise history.
“Dan’s passion for this opportunity was evident throughout our interview process,” said Wood, in a statement. “When we began the search for a head coach, it was imperative that we find the right leader who values our commitment to building a winning culture based on organizational alignment and collaboration. The leadership Dan has exemplified throughout his football career has prepared him for this next step, and we are excited to support him as our new head coach.”
Campbell, a former tight end in the NFL, understands the pain of Lions’ fans after spending three seasons in Detroit during his career, one of which, although he was injured for much of it, was the infamous 0-16 2008 season.
“This place has been kicked,” said Campbell, to ESPN. “It’s been battered. It’s been bruised. And I could sit up here and give you coach-speak all day long. I can give you, ‘Hey, we’re going to win this weekend.’ None of that matters and you guys don’t want to hear it anyway. You heard enough of that shit, excuse my language.”
Instead of following the normal script for head coaches at their introductory press conferences, Campbell showed his humorous side, at times. He also explained further his vision for the team’s future.
“Here’s what I do know,” said Campbell. “This team is going to take on the identity of this city and this city has been down and it found a way to get up. It’s found a way to overcome adversity, right? So this team is going to be built on, we’re going to kick you in the teeth, right? And when you punch us back, we’re going to smile at you. And when you knock us down, we’re going to get up and on the way up, we’re going to bite a kneecap off. All right? And we’re going to stand up and it’s going to take two more shots to knock us down. And on the way up, we’re going to take your other kneecap and we’re going to get up and it’s going to take three shots to get us down. And when we do, we’re going to take another hunk out of you. Before long, we’re going to be the last one standing. That’s going to be the mentality.”
While it remains to be seen if the team will respond to the leadership of Holmes and Campbell, students on the campus of Grand Rapids Community College are excited about the Lions’ new direction.
“I personally love the hire of Dan Campbell,” said Brendan Burke, communications director for the GRCC Student Alliance and a student-reporter for the Collegiate Live. “I wanted someone fresh and new. I hope he brings some of Sean Payton to Detroit. It might not be the fan favorite but it’s definitely the right choice.”
While hopes are high around the Lions, some students are tempering their excitement, knowing that starting over comes with its own setbacks.
“I believe that the addition of Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell will definitely hope to turn the franchise around,” said Nelson Hubbell, a student-reporter for the Collegiate Live. “There will definitely be some bumps and bruises along the way, per usual when you hire a first time GM and HC, but I expect the Lions to turn around and consistently be a .500 or better football team in the coming years. Campbell is putting together a really good coaching staff with some head coaching experience. Holmes seems to be an intelligent guy who, based on the press conference, does not let his ego get in the way. All of this bodes well for the Lions organization.”