On a recent podcast, The Athletic’s Nate Tice and Robert Mays discussed their top 10 general managers who they’d use to build an NFL roster. Mays explained why this is different from just a top-10 power ranking.
“This is not a power ranking of the jobs that these guys have done recently or in their careers,” Mays explained. “This is, if you were starting a team from scratch right now—every player in the league is a free agent, we’re starting from square one—who would you want to oversee your team.”
With that caveat in place, Tice actually chose Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes as No. 10 on his list.
“I can see the path they’re trying to go on, and I think that is really, really cool to see for a guy who’s only entering his second year as a GM,” Tice said. “But I can see the culture they’re trying to build in Detroit, and that’s a reflection, probably, of the head coach they have, but that’s also good insight into their thinking and showing he understands what they are.”
Tice was particularly impressed with Holmes’ patient approach, even with their aggressive trade up to get Jameson Williams this year.
“They have not rushed to anything,” Tice said. “They boosted the offensive line with (Penei) Sewell last year. They didn’t go, ‘Oh, we need to get a wide receiver now.’ They stayed patient with all of these moves. Even though they moved up back into the first round to get Jameson Williams, I thought that was a great understanding, and I thought they really—it depends on the trade chart, yada yada yada—they didn’t give up that much. I thought that was a nice move, and you’re not going to get a Jameson Williams-type in every draft, especially for a team that needed team speed.”
Another aspect of Holmes’ job that Tice has been impressed with is his marriage with head coach Dan Campbell. We’ve heard plenty about how the two have gotten along so well, and Tice says you can see that from the way Holmes is finding players who fit Detroit’s culture without sacrificing anything.
“Position coaches, coordinators, head coaches, they come in and say, ‘I want this guy. I want this guy. I want this guy,’” Tice said. “For a GM to take that, and translate it to something that works, and doesn’t make you bankrupt or dock something in the future or down the road, I like the patience that the Lions have shown.”
Mays noted that he agreed with everything Tice said, but had a warning for Lions fans—and Mays concurred. Here’s their back-and-forth:
Mays: “There have been a lot of good feelings around the Lions over the past couple months. I think we might be getting a little ahead of ourselves here.”
Tice: “We’ve got to understand who they are. Six wins is a good year. I hope people understand that.”
Mays: “It makes me worried about Lions fans. Guys, I’m not saying you’re the ones doing this (hyping), I’m just concerned about your emotional well-being, based on what this conversation feels like.”
Tice: “It’s excitement to be watchable. It’s not like, ‘Oh, we’re storming the playoffs’ or anything. If they make the Wild Card, that’s awesome, good for them, but I think anything above six wins is a victory for the Lions’ franchise. Not 10 wins or 11 wins. You should shoot for a more reasonable number.”
But Mays spun the lower expectations in a way that sounds optimistic about the future for Detroit.
“I think the Lions are going to be bad, but in an endearing way and still be in range to potentially get their quarterback in a draft that (they) already like.”
You can listen to the entire podcast here. The conversation about the Lions begins right around the 35:30 mark.