When Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell first took control of the franchise two months ago, they both really hammered home a franchise-building approach that would involve cooperation, collaboration and a shared vision. They followed that up by stacking the front office with new positions: Ray Agnew as an assistant general manager, John Dorsey as a senior personnel executive and Chris Spielman in a vague assistant to Sheila Ford Hamp and Rod Wood role.
“You have to get good people around you who are all pulling in the same direction,” Campbell said in his introductory press conference. “It’s team. It’s all about team. There’s no ego.”
That all sounds great. Get a bunch of people together who share a vision in paddle in the same direction. Life, however, rarely works that simply. Personalities clash. Opinions differ. Football is a competitive business and with competition brings emotions.
But if free agency is any early indication, the Lions may actually be living up to that plan. The Lions may not have made any huge splashes on a tight budget, but they used every resource inside their own building to get guys they knew and were comfortable with. Tapping everyone from coaches to personnel executives, the Lions got a bunch of new, but familiar faces in Detroit. The people at the top trusted the evaluations of those beneath them.
Obviously it starts with assistant GM Ray Agnew and Holmes, who orchestrated the franchise-resetting trade of Matthew Stafford to the Rams and a later trade that brought veteran defensive tackle Michael Brockers.
“The insight that Brad and Ray had was huge,” Campbell said. “They started, kind of, this process, and they had a hand in it.”
But the Lions expended all the resources at their disposal. Dorsey, who’s had three decades worth of professional scouting, was credited by Campbell in spotting wide receiver Damion Ratley, a player Dorsey drafted for the Browns three years ago. Breshad Perriman was vouched for by wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle El, who worked with him in Tampa. Agnew also pointed the Lions in the direction of Tyrell Williams, despite no previous relationship with the speedy wide receiver.
“He kind of was like, ‘Look man, you need to check this guy out. He’s coming off an injury, but this guy’s got some juice. I think we can get him,’” Campbell recalls of their conversation.
Both Holmes and Campbell went out of their way to credit director of player personnel Lance Newmark with some of their free agency scores, specifically backup quarterback Tim Boyle.
“A lot of credit goes to Lance Newmark, our director of player personnel,” Holmes said. “He’s a guy that had Tim identified early in the process.”
This harmony and collaboration in the front office, it’s always been a part of the plan, and free agency was the first visible product of that plan.
“That’s a team effort. That’s all of us working together, because that was kind of the vision,” Campbell said. “Where do we find these guys that maybe are a little bit off-the-radar, if you will, but we know they’ve got some juice and they can play, and they can help us.”
Of course, whether these guys can actually help the Lions will be decided in the fall. For now, the Lions are just sticking to the blueprint.
“It’s been a collective effort,” Holmes said. “It’s been a collaborative approach, but we’re just going to keep sticking to the plan and hopefully we can bring that product that One Pride deserves.”