The Detroit Lions decided prior to their general manager and head coach search that they wanted Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders to be involved in the process. Before things got underway, they announced Sanders as one of a few advisors they’d use to help identify and select candidates for the job.
Though his role is not clearly defined—he described himself as “on the fringes” of the search—Sanders obviously has an inside-look into Detroit’s process and where things stand right now. On Wednesday, he made the media rounds and dropped a few interesting nuggets about where things stand as of this week. He joined both SiriusXM NFL Radio and The Rich Eisen Show.
Here are the most interesting things Sanders revealed about the Lions’ process.
Chris Spielman is ‘heading the search’
The Lions hired Spielman with the ambiguous title of “Special Assistant to the Chairman and President & CEO.” And while Spielman explained that as simply servitude to Sheila Ford Hamp and Rod Wood, it appears he’s head-manning this entire search right now.
“Chris Spielman is the one who’s heading the search,” Sanders told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “Of course, Chris has been around the game for many years. I think we’re in good hands as far as searching for a new coach.”
That, of course, shouldn’t come as a complete surprise, seeing that owner Ford Hamp has been on the job for less than a year and team president Wood does not come from a football background. Still, it’s interesting to see Spielman running things after only being on the job for a month.
Matthew Stafford sticking around?
The topic of Matthew Stafford came up in both interviews, and Sanders revealed his understanding of the quarterback’s future with the team.
“I would assume that (the future) does involve Matthew, but that’s me,” Sanders told Eisen. “I don’t know how some other coach may see that situation, but I still think he’s playing at a tremendously high level.”
As far as Stafford’s interest in stick around, again Sanders believes his future is here.
“I would expect for Matthew to be back, and, yes, I would want him back,” Sanders said on SiriusXM. “I don’t know what he’s thinking as far as that. My understanding is that he’s completely and certainly planning to come back.”
Stafford still has two years remaining on his contract, but with Detroit currently holding onto the seventh-overall pick, and Stafford’s trade value likely not getting any higher, many believe Detroit would be wisest to move on and grab a rookie passer.
College coach candidates are in play
As of yet, we have not heard of the Lions interviewing a coaching candidate from the college level, but Sanders said that the team is definitely looking at the pool of candidates there.
“From what I understand, there’s definitely some college coaches involved in our process of who Chris is actually looking at,” Sanders said per Birkett. ”He’s taking a good look at both.”
The Lions reportedly had interest in Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, but he has turned down every interview request from the NFL as of today. There were also loose rumors they may have been seeking an interview with Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, but he appears to be returning to the university in 2021.