Ever since the Detroit Lions hired former NFL linebacker Chris Spielman with the vague title of “Special Assistant to President/CEO and Chairperson,” we’ve been trying to find out exactly what he’s been doing with the team. We know he was heavily involved in the hiring process of general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell, but he was given a full-time position and always seems to pop his head in just about every room of the team’s Allen Park facility this season.
This week, Spielman joined ESPN’s Dave Pasch, a former colleague of his in the broadcasting game, for a long-spanning interview. In it, Spielman explains how the job came about, with Lions president Rod Wood reaching out to him shortly after the firing of Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn.
“First he asked me if I wanted to interview for the GM job, and I said, ‘Very flattered that you asked, but I’m not qualified to be a general manager, but I do think I can help in other areas,’” Spielman said.
Since that moment, the position has been “evolving,” as Spielman put it. He helped with not just the hiring of Campbell and Holmes, but offered an extra opinion on the subsequent hirings of the rest of the coaching staff.
He also broke down his role with the team this year in four different aspects of the team.
Meetings with the ownership
Spielman revealed that he meets with Hamp, Holmes, and Campbell every Tuesday morning to discuss the previous week’s game.
“Just offer a third perspective of what I saw during the game.”
“The other thing that I’ve been able to do, is work with some of the young linebackers. I don’t talk anything philosophically about what we’re doing on defense. That’s not my role. But as far as fundamentals and stuff like that, I work with them before practice. I work with them after practice.”
“I’m also very involved with the personnel and scouting. I talk to college scouts on a regular basis. Brad Holmes, our GM, gives me some assignments to help him. We always bounce ideas off (each other), because you think about this or he’ll ask me what I think about that. What’d you see there? What’d I see there?
Spielman told an interesting story, too, of his experience scouting linebackers for the Lions for the 2021 NFL Draft. He said, watching the linebacker, he didn’t think any of them were good.
“I thought everybody was awful,” Spielman said.
But after giving a harsh presentation on the linebacking class, Lions director of college scouting Dave Sears gave him a call to offer some advice.
“He said, ‘It’s been my experience over the years that guys that played a certain position—like yourself—they’re much harder on the guys that they are grading.’’
Spielman took that advice, re-watched the linebackers in the class, and gave what he believed to be a much more fair assessment of the college players.
“I’ve made calls to season ticket holders. It’s tough to sell season tickets when you’re 1-11-1, but we’re trying to get people to see the big vision that we have around here, what we’re trying to build, and the foundation that’s being laid.”
Perhaps most striking from Spielman’s appearance on Pasch’s podcast was his selflessness. He explained that one reason he felt he was such an asset to the LIons was because he feels his role in football now is to give back to the community. He’s not trying to climb the ladder anymore. He’s had his moment.
“I’m not interested in being the general manager. I’m not interested in being the coach. I’m interested in being service-oriented towards you guys,” Spielman said. “I told them, ‘Look, I’ve climbed that mountain as a player. I’ve reached the epitome of what I could possibly reach as an NFL player.’ That was my goal, that was my dream.
“Now my whole mission in life is to help others succeed and see them successful. So in order to do that, you have to be humble, and you have to be able to understand that you’re working with them. They’re not working for you. I’m working with them. I do what they ask me to do. I offer my opinions. Sometimes they take them. Sometimes they don’t, but it’s just another set of eyes and another voice for them to make the best decision as possible.”
Spielman’s generosity doesn’t stop there. Pasch does a good job of highlighting the kind of person Spielman is off the field. He shared stories from the road about how the two’s friendship grew as an announcing pairing, including Spielman calling Pasch every single day to check in when Pasch’s wife was dealing with a medical issue.