Detroit Lions team president and CEO spent his Tuesday morning of a very busy week chatting with local media about the 2020 season and what lies ahead for the team’s general manager and head coach search. Wood had a lot of interesting things to say about the team’s process thus far, what he’s learned from previous searches, and his opinion on Matthew Stafford.
Here are the five biggest takeaways from his media session, which you can watch right here.
This GM, head coach search has been MUCH different than the past couple
Wood called experience “the best teacher” and believes he has learned a ton going through the processes of hiring general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia in the past.
First and foremost, he’s learned to add more people to the hiring process. He admitted last time they hired Matt Patricia, it was solely Quinn and Wood in on the process. This time around, he’s got owner Sheila Ford Hamp, Chris Spielman and vice president of football administration Mike Disner all very involved.
Additionally, Wood has learned to be much more thorough in his candidate list. When hiring a general manager, Wood admitted they interviewed just three people. They’ve already interviewed seven, and there are reports they’ll interview four more this week.
Wodo also believes he has a better understanding of what it means to be a successful GM, and it’s not just about player acquisition.
“Being a general manager is not necessarily just picking players and putting a roster together, there’s more involved than that,” Wood said. “So, finding people who exhibit some of the skills that are required to be a good manager of people and processes, not just picking players.”
Lions are valuing character over accomplishments at GM and head coach
Wood was asked directly what they are valuing in their candidates for both the head coach and general manager jobs. Almost everything he said had to do with the candidate’s personality, and he believed those qualifications are unique to the Lions job.
“I won’t share all of them with you, but I would say they focus on leadership, culture, teamwork, awareness of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and what we’re really looking for is a culture that is open, inclusive, where everyone is pulling as a team, and one where communication is paramount. Everybody is doing the right thing for the Detroit Lions.”
Wood pointed out how this was yet another difference from past searches, in that they potentially overvalued football accomplishments in the past.
“We were more focused on candidates because of their accomplishments as opposed to criteria that had been established before we started interviewing with them,” Wood said.
Darrell Bevell may actually have a chance at staying
Perhaps I could be reading into this too much, but before taking any questions, Wood went out of his way to compliment the job Bevell did under tough circumstances as the team’s interim head coach.
“I really want to compliment Darrell Bevell and what he did really the last five weeks,” Wood said. “It’s a very tough assignment to step into an interim head coaching assignment during the season. I think the players rallied around him. Darrell did a great job organizing things, then was thrown a curveball in the middle of his five-game stretch with the COVID-19 situation and the close contacts with the coaches that we lost for the Bucs game. But even with that, I think we came through it and (that’s) a testament to Darrell for that.”
Pair that with the fact that they’re looking for high-character coaches who can help organize a productive work environment, I would say Bevell may have more of a shot at the head coaching job than any normal interim candidate.
The Lions still ‘admire’ Matthew Stafford
If you’re looking for signs that Matthew Stafford sticks around in 2021, there were a few interesting things Wood said during Tuesday’s presser. First, when asked if he believed the Lions roster needed to be blown up with a full rebuild, he said that decision wouldn’t be up to him, but he thinks the Lions are closer than some think.
“I do think, despite the record, we’re not as far away as it might appear,” Wood said. “I would think that we can retool some things and continue to be competitive, while we’re also – I think in some cases on the defensive side of the ball, having to rebuild the roster a little bit.”
If Wood thinks the team may be close, and just needs some tinkering on defense, it may be worth it to ride out Stafford’s remaining two years on his deal.
Later, he was asked if he had a preference among GM or head coaching candidates based on how they will treat Matthew Stafford’s future with the franchise. Here’s his answer:
“I don’t have a preference. We’ll see. We’re certainly talking about our entire roster, including Matthew, with everybody that we’re interviewing for both positions. He’s our quarterback. He’s a very important player, very important position. But again, when we have people in the building to weigh in on those decisions, that’s when we’ll be able to talk more about it. Certainly everybody that we talked to admires Matthew from afar, as much as we admire him inside the building.”
The Lions will make their hires in any order necessary—and it may be coming soon
Generally—but not always—teams have a hired a general manager prior to hiring a head coach. Then, of course, that general manager would help with the head coaching search. That’s not necessarily how things will go this time around for Detroit. They are running both searches concurrently, and while they are asking both GM and head coach candidates their opinion on hiring for the other position, the order will simply come as it does.
Wood admitted that may mean hiring a general manage first, simply because they’re a few steps ahead in that process already, but if the right head coach candidate comes along, they won’t hesitate to jump on the opportunity.
“If we find the perfect head coach and we’ve not yet found a general manager, we’re not going to wait on the coach,” Wood said. “We’re in competition with other teams who are interviewing some of the same people, and it’s important, I think, to get the right coach. If that means we have to hire a coach first, that’s what we’ll do.”
Their goal, ultimately, is to find a GM and a head coach that will able to work with whoever they choose.
That being said, the Lions want to do a face-to-face interview with their finalists before making a hire, and that could mean waiting until the end of the Super Bowl. Plenty of Detroit’s known candidates—Eric Bieniemy, Dan Campbell, Arthur Smith, Brad Holmes, etc—are still in the playoffs, and won’t be able to be interviewed in person until their team has been eliminated. Wood said the team will wait, if it’s their guy.
“We would be willing to wait if that’s what it took to find the right person. There’s no deadline on our process.”