Bob Quinn is now entering his 11th month as General Manager for the Detroit Lions. There’s still no macro conclusions you can make about the job Quinn has done. The Lions may be 5-4 and atop the NFC North, but there are a ton of convoluted reasons for that, and general managing is just one tiny piece of that pie.
However, Quinn can still be analyzed by what he has done thus far based on his roster management. Teams deal with a ton of injuries every year, and the way a GM responds can mean the difference between 10-6 or 6-10. But it goes beyond injury damage control. The management of the practice squad, the tolerance of poor talent and the investigation of the waiver wire are all underrated processes of the general manager in the middle of the season.
So we went out and compared how Bob Quinn has done compared to his predecessor Martin Mayhew. We wanted to see how each GM managed the team in the middle of the season. In other words, once the Lions started play, how did each GM react and adapt to certain situations. The following data was taken from the official Detroit Lions transaction list and represents moves from after Week 1 games to after Week 10 games from the past two years. Here’s what we found:
|FA signings||Waiver claims||Trades||PS signing||PS promotions||Waives/Releases||IR||Injury settlements|
|2015 Martin Mayhew||7||0||0||5||2||7||5||3|
|2016 Bob Quinn||7||1||2||12||2||17||3||1|
Now, before we get into analyzing the numbers above, a few caveats: Know that we’re drawing from a very small sample size and making any large assumptions is dangerous. We’re only dealing with two months worth of work, and each situation the respective GM was in could vary significantly from one another. For example, the Lions are 5-4 right now, whereas they were 2-7 last year. That obviously changes the way you’d manage your team. Also, the situation with injuries from last year to this year, while somewhat similar, all are nuanced and very particular in the vacuum of that particular season. In other words, take everything that follows with a grain of salt. There’s still interesting tidbits to pull out here, but nothing to make you think definitively that Martin Mayhew or Bob Quinn was better at the job.
The first thing that popped out to me was simply how many more transactions Quinn has made during the season. In total, he has made 45 mid-season transactions as compared to just 28 last year under Mayhew. Considering the Lions placed five guys on IR last year, compared to just three this year, that’s a bit surprising. However, it’s what transactions that were made that reveal more interesting things about the differing types of management between Mayhew and Quinn.
Practice squad management
The biggest difference in the two years has been Bob Quinn’s aggressive tactics with the practice squad. Quinn has made 12 signings to the practice squad as compared to just five under Mayhew. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise: Erik Schlitt of Detroit Jock City pointed out this offseason how much the Patriots churn over the bottom of their roster.
Like Belichick, I expect Quinn to never be satisfied with his roster. He has shown that he is willing to move on from guys he had previously targeted and signed. Also like Belichick, Quinn has given tryouts to aging veterans players like Anquan Boldin, and scheduled one with Arian Foster. This Lions team is still very young and would benefit from adding more veteran leadership.
While both general managers have only promoted two players from the practice squad to the active roster, this kind of roster turnover has become a theme for Quinn in his short time in Detroit.
Nowhere is the previous point more clear than in the amount of waives and releases between the two managers. Part of this ties in with the practice squad management, as a waive from the squad is included in these totals, but Quinn has over double the amount of transactions in that category. This shows that whether you’re on the active roster or the practice squad, you are expected to perform. If not, you could very quickly get the axe.
Quinn has also shown to be a little more creative in altering the Lions’ roster mid-season. Scouring the waiver wire is a big part of the job, and while he only has one to Mayhew’s zero, it’s still important to note.
The bigger observation here is the mid-season trades. Mayhew quickly gained a reputation of swinging trades after boldly sending away Roy Williams to the Cowboys for a bounty of draft picks. However, you may be shocked to hear that he only pulled off one additional mid-season trade during the rest of his time as the Lions’ GM: A fairly insignificant trade for receiver Mike Thomas after Nate Burleson broke his arm.
Bob Quinn has already swung two mid-season trades. One sent away a starter in Kyle Van Noy while the other added a potential contributor to the secondary in Johnthan Banks. Neither of these moves had the blockbuster status of the Williams trade, but it does show Quinn’s willingness to think outside of the box in making roster changes.
Again, there isn’t a ton of data available to make sweeping generalizations, but based on what we’ve seen already, Quinn appears to be the more aggressive general manager. The bottom of the roster has been in constant flux since he took over, and Quinn hasn’t been afraid of making a bold trade or taking chances on other team’s castoffs. Whether that produces better results in the long-term is a discussion to have in a few years, but there’s no doubt the team is being managed differently thus far.