Detroit Lions Named Brad Holmes Executive Vice President and General Manager
January 20, 2021
Principal Owner and Chairman Sheila Ford Hamp Opening Statement: “Thank you all for being here, and good afternoon everybody. So, before I formally welcome Brad Holmes to the Lions organization and introduce him to you as our new general manager, I want to tell you a bit about our process and how we came to have the unanimous conclusion that Brad was our guy. When I say, ‘we,’ I mean the group who conducted all the interviews. The group was Rod Wood, Chris Spielman, Mike Disner and myself.
“I can’t thank Chris and Mike enough. They were the football experts whose perspective and insight were invaluable. Rod, as our team president, added a tremendous amount of value and perspective, drawing on his deep and widespread network of relationships throughout the NFL.
“I’d also like to thank our group of advisors – Barry Sanders, Rod Graves and Mark Hollis -- who assisted with our search and provided valuable counsel throughout the whole process.
“Within our group of four, I, of course, had the steepest learning curve of all of us, but we bonded as a group in a very collaborative way, and the whole process was extremely thorough and comprehensive. After each interview, we debriefed as a group and ranked our latest prospect. Everybody was involved. Even before we began the process, we met several times to determine the significant characteristics that we were looking for in a general manager. Obviously, football expertise and a proven nose for talent were givens, but beyond that, we were looking for a natural leader, an engaging communicator and someone who could help us lead a culture shift for the entire Lions organization.
“We want to create a culture where everyone involved with the Lions knows that they are a Detroit Lion, all (are) an integral part of the same team, all (are) working together to create a winning team and a winning organization.
“We interviewed 12 general manager candidates. All of them were very talented, impressive and qualified individuals. But when we interviewed Brad, he stood out to us as the perfect fit for the general manager we were looking for. His leadership qualities were evident. So was his intelligence, his engaging personality and his collaborative and confident approach to team building. His embrace of the fusion of analytics and scouting intuition in his approach to drafting blew us all away. He was our unanimous choice. We all had the same gut instinct. Brad Holmes is a winner, and I am beyond delighted to introduce him as our next general manager.
“But before Brad can speak for himself, I want to turn things over to Rod Wood, our president, for his comments about Brad.”
President and CEO Rod Wood Opening Statement: “Thanks Sheila (Ford Hamp), and I just want to echo Sheila’s comments about the whole process and thank Mike (Disner) and Chris (Spielman). It was an awesome process, very deep, very thorough, and I think it resulted in the right person for the job.
“I’m sure you all have some interest in the other search that we have ongoing, our head coaching search. We’re not going to take any questions or make comments on that today out of respect to the process. I want today to be about Brad Holmes, our new general manager.
“Before I talk about Brad and the process a little bit more, I also want to make an announcement that Mike Disner will be taking on some additional management responsibilities over some of our football operations and administration, which will free up Brad to work with our new head coach and focus on player acquisition, development and building a great team and roster for the Detroit Lions.
“Sheila mentioned how we invested in developing criteria for the search, and I want to read a few of these very specific criteria to you. I know we’ve talked about it before, Sheila alluded to it, but we all had this on a piece of paper, and as she mentioned, we were grading people against these criteria. And I want to read a few to you that Brad stood out amongst: ‘Culture builder. Being open, inclusive, supportive, engaging, and an excellent listener. The ability to lead a diverse team, many of whom work on the road…,’ certainly, Brad can relate to this, ‘…and outside of the building on a regular basis. Someone with excellent self-awareness, acknowledging what they don’t know and building a team around them to cover their weaknesses. Working with our head coach as a partner in a positive and productive relationship, and most important maybe for the general manager, the ability to balance the team needs of today and the team needs of the future and be a steward for the long-term success of the organization.’ Against those criteria, I can tell you that Brad blew away the competition and stood out, which is part of the reason he’s here today.
“In addition to how well he did in the interviews, we talked extensively to others about him. I spent a lot of time on the phone with Kevin Demoff, the chief operating officer of the Rams, Les Snead, the general manager of the Rams, and Chris had a long conversation with Coach (Sean) McVay. All gave outstanding recommendations about Brad and said we’d be lucky to have him.
“We’re so excited to have him here today to introduce him as our new general manager, but before Brad takes the podium, Sheila and I will take a few questions, then we’re going to turn it over to Brad.”
On what felt right about hiring Executive Vice President and General Manager Brad Holmes: (Ford Hamp) “Well, I mean everything about Brad, as they say, stood out to us. We had this process, which really was amazing, and the more we did it, I think the better we got at it and the better we got at evaluating people. And so, when we would have our debrief at the end of each interview, we would all say what we thought and then someone might say something semi-critical or something about somebody and we’d discuss it, whatever. When we finished with Brad, I think I went first that time, and all I said was, ‘Wow.’ Just, wow. He just was everything we were looking for, and as I said, extremely intelligent, amazing communicator, collaborative. The way he described how he goes about his job, he hit on all fronts. So, I think he was our only unanimous, right-off-the bat discussion. It was great. Wait until you have a chance to talk to him. You’ll see what I’m saying. Let him speak for himself.”
On what stood out about Executive Vice President and General Manager Brad Holmes when talking about roster building and evaluation: (Wood) “Everybody scouts somewhat similarly, and we interviewed some great candidates from some great organizations. Obviously, some people have perfected it better than others. I think the one thing that Brad brought from what the Rams do is the use of analytics to really hone in on the players that you can predict will fit your roster and make an impact on your team. Obviously, there’s the scouting of players through watching them in person and watching them on tape, but then taking all of this data that’s out there and figuring out if somebody runs a 40 (yard dash) at ‘X’ speed and has (an) arm length of ‘this’ and a three-cone of ‘that,’ they’re likely to be a good player, or they’re likely to not be a good player. And they’ve taken it to a whole new level. Brad will probably be better (able) to answer it than I am, but it was impressive, and it was different, and I think it’s cutting edge.”
(Ford Hamp) “Definitely cutting-edge. Definitely different from, I think, pretty much what we’ve been doing here. So, Brad’s going to bring a lot of new ideas and as I said, yes, the analytics are fabulous and he always says get as much information as possible, but then there’s the intuitive part of it too, and he’s got that as well.”
On the front office reporting structure and if Executive Vice President and General Manager Brad Holmes will have final say on all roster decisions: (Wood) “Brad and our new head coach will be collaborating on the 53-man roster. They’re each going to have input. As we’ve talked about – we want a culture where everyone’s working together, and I think that will work fine once we have our new head coach in place. Mike (Disner) will be doing all the things he has been doing, just picking up some of the in-house football administration stuff so Brad can focus on finding players. Both Mike and Brad and our new head coach will report directly to Shelia (Ford Hamp) and me. There won’t be a structure where there’s layers between any of them and Sheila and me.”
(Ford Hamp) “Then you mentioned Chris (Spielman), too…”
(Wood) “Oh yeah, Chris is an advisor to the two of us. He’s been instrumental in this whole process. Obviously, now that we’ve got, hopefully, the searches almost behind us, Chris will be engaged in helping everybody throughout the organization. Not just the football side, but even on the business side in helping to bring in new sponsors, working with our folks at Ford Field. No direct management responsibility, but a wide range of areas that he’s going to be helping with.”
(Ford Hamp) “It was great having Chris on the interview process. I mean, he was obviously wonderful on many respects, but also – so all of the potential candidates saw Chris, knew what he was about. We actually would open the interviews with kind of explaining Chris’ role, so there was no confusion. Chris describes himself as a servant, which that’s kind of how he sees himself – helping everybody. He will help Brad and he’ll help the new coach. He’ll write to Rod and me and the whole organization. It’s part of the team. All part of the team.”
On if the reporting structure for this regime is similar to the previous regime: (Wood) “Similar, although under the structure before, both Mike (Disner) and Matt (Patricia) technically reported to Bob (Quinn). So, this is a slight tweak there.”
On who will have the final say on roster construction: (Wood) “I’ll answer it the same way – the head coach and the general manager are going to collaborate on it.”
On some of the technology enhancements Executive Vice President and General Manager Brad Holmes is looking to make: (Wood) “Maybe I’ll let Brad speak to that as opposed to me trying to dabble in something I’m not an expert in. There’s one thing – maybe you can talk about it, Brad, when you come up with the road scouts that we already talked about this morning and then I’m sure there’ll be some other things, I’m sure, as well.”
(Ford Hamp) “I think you’ll be impressed.”
On if Executive Vice President and General Manager Brad Holmes had any say in the head coaching search or if they were kept separately: (Ford Hamp) “So, yes, they were simultaneous. We started with GM interviews way back when, before the season was over, because we could. We could interview people that were either not employed or in other fields at the moment. But in every interview, we would ask the general manager, ‘If you were to become our general manger, would you have a coach in mind?’ So, when we got to Brad, we asked that question. There’s usually a list – it was interesting, because there were usually lots of overlaps. So, as we were getting down to the end of our coaching search, we hired Brad. We’ve had him talk to some candidates, and I think it’s all going to be very good.”
(Wood) “I think that’s fair. Sheila said, and vice-versa, when we were interviewing head coaches, we would ask them about general manager candidates and who they could see themselves working with. There was substantial overlap between what the coaches said and what the general manager candidate said. It was a little odd, maybe doing both at the same time, but I think it also turned out to be very productive and a wide net and a lot of overlap. As Sheila said, as we got near the end, we put Brad into the process. When the head coach is announced, it’s going to be with Brad’s awareness and support.”
On what Executive Vice President and General Manager Brad Holmes had that overcame not having previous general manager experience and if the same applies with the head coach not having previous experience in that role: (Ford Hamp) “In the case of Brad, I think we kind of decided that we wouldn’t have probably both experience be complete rookies. In the case of Brad, he blew us all away, honestly. It was amazing. Actually, I don’t know if you know the story of how we even got Brad’s name, but this is pretty interesting. So, the NFL has these films you can look at and see pre-interviews or interviews with sort of a disembodied voice asking questions and people answering. Honestly, Brad wasn’t even on our initial list of candidates. Mike Disner, who did a lot of homework and a lot of research in this process for us, came across this interview of Brad’s. He went into Rod’s (Wood) office and said, ‘You have to come in here and see this. Just watch for five or 10 minutes and you’re going to go crazy.’ So, Rod did, and he goes, ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve got to interview this guy.’ Then when we did, he just really, literally, blew us all away. I mean we had some terrific other people that we could have gotten and probably said they were very good, but Brad just struck us as head and shoulders above.”
(Wood) “I would just add to that – I think when you’re trying to hire somebody for these types of positions, obviously experience would be valuable, but you’re also trying to project what they might become. In that case, I think Brad blew us away. I’m a very big first impression person, and usually within two or three minutes of every interview, I’d write a quick note to myself of what was my first impression. And my first impression of Brad was, ‘This is the guy.’”
(Ford Hamp) “I think Mike Disner said, ‘I quit taking notes.’ Because he was the guy. It was pretty great.”
On what gives her faith that this is the right move and what she would say to fans to give them faith in the decision: (Ford Hamp) “I think what gives me the most faith is the process we went through. I mean it was very thorough. There were four of us, as I said in the beginning. We all came from it with different perspectives, different areas that we were looking at. The fact that we interviewed 12 general manager candidates, and all of the interviews were several hours, so they were thorough. We actually had questions ahead of time that we made up so that we didn’t sit there and just fire off questions, we had more of a conversation. But we made sure that everything was covered that we wanted to be covered in the conversation. And I think just the thoroughness and the fact that there were four of us and two real football people in on this interview process with Chris (Spielman) and Mike (Disner), I think that’s what gives me the confidence that we’ve got this right.”
Lions Executive Vice President and General Manager Brad Holmes Opening Statement: “How’s everybody doing? Before my second interview, I hadn’t been to the Allen Park facility since I interviewed here to be a PR intern, actually. This is right before I ended up being a Rams PR intern, so it’s really funny how everything became – really got full circle. First off, I want to thank (Principal Owner and Chairman) Sheila Ford Hamp and the entire Ford family. I want to thank (President and CEO) Rod Wood, (Special Assistant to President/CEO and Chairperson) Chris Spielman, and (Vice President of Football Administration) Mike Disner. You can prepare all you want for these jobs, and it was my first time coming into it, and the biggest advice that I received is that – in terms of the interview process – is that they’re all different. This process, specifically to the first interview – is not truly knowing what to expect going in, and obviously have some nerves running and didn’t know what to expect, but in that first interview, the nerves quickly went away. It really was (because of) Mrs. Hamp. She had such an immediate, positive impact on me so early on, that I got off that interview, and I told my wife, ‘I wasn’t expecting that.’ The reason why I say that is – it literally started off as a virtual Zoom process, but by the end, it felt like we were sitting by a fireplace or a campfire, just getting to know each other. Sometimes you just get that feeling that when you know something is right, it just feels right? Well, Mrs. Hamp just had an incredible soul that I was really able to connect with, and just the whole process was A-1, first-class, couldn’t be more excited. The dialogue with Rod Wood had been excellent, the rapport I had with Chris Spielman, Mike Disner, throughout the process was extremely genuine, extremely natural, and I couldn’t be more excited to work with a group like this.
“When I first spoke to Chris Spielman, I almost was thinking like, like he was so wanting to help, and this was before the first – just kind of reach out – I thought it was a setup. I was like, ‘Is he trying to set me up before the first like,’ – truly just – the more we spoke – he just has a heart of gold. His soul purpose is to make the Lions better. Sheila couldn’t have said any better – he truly embraces that servant role and for that, I’m very thankful. Thank you so much.
“I want to thank my family. My lovely wife, Lisa – I’m sure she’s watching. My son, B.J., and our daughter, Lola, who turns the big 5 months tomorrow. The love and support they provide – I can’t put it into words. To put it blatantly, without them, I wouldn’t be up here, speaking with you guys today. So thank you so much, and I love you guys dearly. I want to thank my parents. They met at my alma mater, at North Carolina A&T State University – Aggie pride! My mom, Joan, Dr. Holmes as many call her, just so much love and sacrifice in my upbringing, along with my older sister, Tara. My mom always preached education, relentlessly, and always showed strong work ethic, working late nights. My dad, Melvin Holmes, who played in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he never really pushed football on me. He always raised me in a football environment, but he waited for me to ask him to play football. So I thought that that was really cool and very, very impactful in my upbringing. Staying on family, I have to thank my uncle, Luther Bradley. Now just bear with me, it feels weird to say ‘Luther Bradley’ because I’ve called him my Uncle Ruff ever since I was born. Actually, it’s strange because that was my grandfather’s name, Luther Bradley, and that was his father, and we didn’t even call my grandfather, Luther Bradley. We called him ‘Big Daddy.’ So for me to say, Luther Bradley, is sounds – so if you guys hear me say Uncle Ruff, just know that I’m referencing Luther Bradley, but my Uncle Ruff! All-time leading interception leader at Notre Dame, school of history, first-round pick for the Lions in ’78. Me as a baby, and as a young child, we spent many holidays here in Detroit. He was out there in that Sherwood Forest community, and growing up, my Uncle Ruff, well Luther – that’s when it opened my eyes to Lions football. Just the tradition and the history that’s deep-rooted, that he always had so much pride for and so much obsession for, and he’s still active in player alumni and in the community. I want to thank him for all of his support he has provided me throughout this process. I think he’s enjoying it more than me, actually, to get this job. I’m sure he’ll tell you that he can cover any USC wide receiver still to this day. That’s just how he is.
“I want to thank the Los Angeles Rams, (Owner/Chairman) Stan Kroenke, (Chief Operating Officer) Kevin Demoff, (General Manager) Les Snead, (Head Coach) Sean McVay, (Vice President, Football & Business Administration) Tony Pastoors and the late Georgia Frontiere. I spent 18 years with the Rams and was basically raised in that franchise. Always been a first-class organization and can’t thank them enough for everything that they’ve done for me and my family. Throughout that time with the Rams, I served under a few different GMs. My first one was Charley Armey – he gave me my first shot in scouting, and he taught me the foundation of player evaluation. Billy Devaney, he gave me a shot to really take on that tough job of scouting down in the southeast, and he taught me the importance of having conviction in your beliefs. Les Snead, can’t say enough great things about him. Obviously had learned under him the longest, and I want to stress the word ‘learn’. He taught me so much. But one of the biggest things is he kept teaching me how to keep the main thing the main thing. It’s football. He also taught me how to be concise, so I won’t rattle off every single thing he taught me, but he invested very heavily in my development, and I’m very grateful for all he’s done for me. Thank you.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Wilbert Montgomery. He was the first person to introduce me to Charley Armey. He just saw a young kid, fresh out of college, that had a high passion for football, and we immediately formed a great relationship and just took off ever since. So thank you so much, Wilbert. So many others to thank. I’m not a believer in that phrase, ‘self-made,’ because I think that at any level of success that anybody gets at some point, somebody helped you along the way at some point, no matter how big or small. For those others that haven’t received a reply from me, I’m working on the 500 text messages. I will get to them. I promise you, but through all the text messages and through all the calls, I can truly say that I appreciate the love and support through all of it.
“In terms of the purpose and the vision here, it’s not complicated. Through a collaborative approach, we will build a winning and inspired culture, to serve the best football product to the great city of Detroit, so we can compete for championships on a consistent basis. I stress the word ‘serve.’ I know the general manager position is a lot of different responsibilities, but I truly believe that it is a service role. With that vision, anybody who has been to another introductory press conference, you’re probably saying, ‘I’ve heard it all before. I’ve heard this before.’ But I will say this: There will be no ego in this process. There will be no ego in the culture. Everything is about the team, bottom line. Everything is about the team. We will be extremely collaborative, very intentional and thorough and diligent in our process to truly earn it. It will be inspired in our process. We will be aggressively smart, and we will embrace rapid evolution. Through all of this, we will keep laser focus on the main thing – and that’s improving football and to serve a championship to the City of Detroit and this passionate fanbase. One Pride deserves that. Thank you so much and without any further ado, I’ll take any questions.”
On the first things he has to accomplish as general manager: “First and foremost, once the head coach is on board, definitely want to make sure that we meet, and then continually work to get on the same page and be aligned. Obviously the evaluation of the total roster is an extreme importance. So really looking forward to making sure that myself and, when the head coach is in place, that we have to take the full deep-dive, very thorough process in the evaluation of the roster, and make sure that we’re on the same page as we approach these upcoming phases with free agency and the Draft.”
On QB Matthew Stafford and the future of Detroit’s quarterback position: “Great question. So Matthew (is a) great player, and what you really appreciate is – I think the talent level is easy to see, but you really appreciate how his intangibles show on film. Just how urgent he plays, how competitive he is, the toughness that he shows, but it is my job to evaluate the entire roster. Through that process, I have not had any discussions with Matt or any players, for that matter. So I just want to be fair to the process to make sure that we evaluate that thoroughly, but obviously, Matt, very good football (player).”
On how he implements technology in his process and why it’s important: “I’ve always said that technology truly is an accelerator. I think it’s only important – very critical to utilize the technology as the accelerator that it truly is. There’s so many different avenues and so many different areas in scouting, in personnel, where the use and acceleration of technology can be utilized in a very critical way. It can be even down to just making sure that everybody gets connected that are even outside of the building, that are on the road – let’s make sure that this technology is being utilized properly and efficiently and in the right way, to make sure that that’s all connected. It goes from the college side, to the pro side, the use of analytics, the evaluation process, how you communicate, that’s probably one of the biggest, in terms of the use of technology. But definitely there’s a lot of different avenues, a lot of different products out there, but something that the Rams utilized heavily that shielded me and opened my eyes to a lot of different things, and very much appreciative of that. So those are some of the things that I would bring to the Lions.”
On if he’s confident in the pro-side of evaluation or if he needs to supplement his front office with pro evaluators: “Yes, that’s a great question. First, let me say this: One of the great things that Les (Snead) did with the Rams is everybody had these different roles, different titles. Got your director of college scouting, your director of pro scouting, you got your assistant director of college, but what he did that I thought was very, very critical and really paid dividends, is that he treated us all as one group. Basically, he often referred to us as a basketball team. If you know Les Snead, you know that’s kind of an analogy that he’d make. But he basically had us involved in the decision-making process on both fronts, whether it’s pro (or) college. So that experience alone really bodes well for me. The other part of your question is, I think it’s very important because what I want to do is make sure it is a blended staff of experience, that is balanced with people that have pro and college experience. So that’s my approach and that’s how I got the experience on that.”
On the technique he has developed in evaluating intangibles: “Great question, very important to me. I think the intangibles are the separator of success at this level. I think it’s very important from my background and my experience up to this point, with the Rams, we always made an emphasis on investing in high intangible football players. You pointed out one thing that means a lot to me, probably the most important, is passion. That is one intangible piece that I don’t have any room for – I don’t have any margin for error. That’s one piece – is passion for football is extremely important, probably the utmost importance when it comes to intangibles. So that’s something that I had actually explained to Rod (Wood) and Sheila (Ford Hamp) during the interview process, is that’s something I just won’t budge on when it comes to passion for football. So something that we had a lot of success with, or with the Rams had a lot of success, and something that will be an important piece that we’ll have here at the Lions.”
On if he was offered the PR internship with the Lions: “Long story – Actually came in, was offered the job. I had interviewed with the Rams and was offered both. I had to make the tough choice to select the Rams – definitely no slight. But I did come in the building with my head down a little bit to make sure that no one was looking for me. It all worked out.”
On if he envisions the team will undergo a reboot or a rebuild: “That’s a fair question. I think when you get into the offseason, I think every franchise, every team, will look at the areas they might need some, let’s say ‘retooling’ and areas that need to be addressed. But the ultimate goal is to make sure that the most competitive team is on the field, and that starts right this year, entering the 2021 season. So not viewing this as, ‘Oh this will be a long-term – I don’t know how long this is going to take,’ that’s not the approach, that’s not the mindset going into it. The approach is to make sure that we can put the most competitive team possible out there on the field in 2021.”
On how much of his work done on this year’s draft class can carry over to his new role, and when he will have all of his processes in place: “It’s funny you ask that because I was thinking, I said, ‘Can you get every single thing done?’ I don’t know why the quote, Rome wasn’t built in a day, or it was built in a day or whatever – I’m probably going to get some flak for that if I didn’t quote that properly. But to the college draft part, and the very advantageous part of what my role is, and what our process has been with the Rams before I took this job, is that I’m very well-versed in the college draft, for this year’s draft class of 2021. So I actually thought that that was something that actually helped me coming into it, to have pretty much have seen a good majority, if not all, of the draft class coming up this year. I do think that because we’re going to have a very dynamic process-driven approach, I do think that you might not get every single I dotted and T crossed that you really want to have been before the Draft. But the intent going into it is to make sure that we can get as much ground covered as possible going into it.”
On what the first part of his bold plan is: “I’d say bold plan – I know that – let’s date back to my time with the Rams. There was a lot of what was deemed as bold moves, that I was very fortunate enough to be a part of. Often when those moves occurred, you really just want to see the outcome. What was the actual result? I can’t say that, in respect to my time with the Rams, all those quote unquote “bold moves,” it was truly a result from what the process was. So every single thing is going to be process-driven in terms of adhering to a very dynamic, sound process. Les Snead says it all the time, you can surrender your results to that process. That will be – not saying specifically what the plan will be – but the approach in terms of having a very sound process, that you can get some bold results coming from that.”
On what changes need to be made right away: “I would go back to sticking to the process that I do have planned, and the process that I will have in place. There’s really not one, specific item or area that’s like, it has to be changed right now. I just have a lot of confidence in the plan and the process that we’ll have in place. So if we stay disciplined in that approach to that process, then we should get the necessary results that we desire.”
On if any other team has ever contacted him to interview for a general manager position whether this year or in the past and defining his ‘pinch me’ moments: “This was my first interview circuit if you could classify it as that, but I did have two teams that I did interview with, both here in Detroit and the (Atlanta) Falcons. But you know, just the pinch me moment probably did come exactly when I came in the building for my second interview because again, like I said in the opening, I had not been in this building since I interviewed for that PR internship. That’s when I just – walking in here was like 18, almost 19 years ago and then coming back here now, as the general manager, that was definitely a – I like the way you put it, a ‘pinch me’ moment where it really just sunk in of like the wow. It really was a surreal feeling and couldn’t be more excited about it.”
On if landing a general manager position was a dream job for him when he was younger: “Yeah, so, great question. Back in the, I’d say the eighth grade. I was in junior high school and my parents kind of lived close to the school, and I’ll put it frankly, I skipped school to watch the Draft. I knew the Draft was coming on TV and it was the ’93 Draft and I knew it was coming on ESPN. I skipped school and I went home when my parents were gone at work and I watched the Draft. That moment I just got enamored with the process of scouting. That’s when I fell in love with scouting. They were talking about, I remember they were showing, I believe it was Jerome Bettis, just running the ball and they were describing the traits, and showing the highlights and they’re showing the general manager, they’re showing the coach, and I just fell in love with the process up until then. And I always told myself back then that regardless of what happens, I want to say that it was even my senior year of high school, I was watching the ’97 Draft and me and my buddy, we were sitting at a fast food McDonalds restaurant, and just having some cheeseburgers, and I said, ‘Yeah, just got done watching the Draft.’ I said, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen with my football career.’ I knew I was going to college to play football, but I knew that I was going to definitely get into scouting at some point.
“Just the GM job specifically, when I got into scouting, I never really looked ahead. I was just so happy to be in actually the industry of scouting, is that when I was a scouting assistant, I just wanted to be the best scouting assistant. And when I was an area scout, I just wanted to be the best area scout. You know, all the way up until obviously being in the Director of College Scouting role, I was truly just trying to be the best college director in the entire league. And so, obviously when I kind of was learning about potential opportunities to potentially interview for a GM job, that’s when you’ve got to start preparing and all that. And that actually felt different to me because I was always, so laser focused on what my job was at hand, never looking ahead and I really just wanted to just dominate my role that I was in. So, to answer your question, I know it’s kind of a branched off answer, but I really didn’t say back then that I want to be a general manager. I fell in love with scouting and as I worked my way up, I just focused on dominating my role at every step.”
On his approach of bringing top talent to Detroit similar to the talent with the Los Angeles Rams: “I’ll start with what I was saying earlier about how important the intangibles aspect is, and we used to always talk about, let’s invest in reliability and let’s invest in reliable players. And obviously, we’re not overlooking talent, a baseline of talent is very necessary. It is the NFL, but I truly believe that the separator of success is those players that do have those high intangible traits. So, that’s a motto that was used with the Rams that obviously bode (well) for a lot of draft success and that same approach will definitely be carried over for the Lions.”
On his message to fans who are skeptical about building the organization in a direction of contention: “Well, I would definitely tell all Lions fans, just as you say process, I’d say, let’s all trust the process that’s going to be in place. It will be a very sound process. It will be a very thorough and diligent process, and we’re going to like I said earlier, we’re going to surrender those results to the process. I’ve always been one that likes to go through the process but tries to delay my intuition towards the end. So, if we keep the process sound and then we make the right gut, intuitive decisions going forward, I believe that the Lions fanbase is going to be very, very happy with the results that they see. I’m so excited about how passionate – you know, my Uncle Ruff, Luther (Bradley), he used to always educate me and all the way up through this process and interview process, about this Lions fanbase. And he says that, they’ve been through ups, they’ve been through downs, but they’re showing up every week in and week out. They’re showing up and packing that house in. When he told me that, I was so excited, he just kept getting me even more excited that I say, ‘Wow, if we can deliver a winner here, to this great city of Detroit because the thing about not only (a) passionate fanbase, but you always hear Detroit as blue-collar, working class.’ But the more intel that I gathered on this great city is that it just seems like a city of character, that just has great character. So, on top of those other great things, I think that characteristic of having great character is something that I really, really am excited about.”
On what lessons he can share with the Lions next head coach from his involvement with the early success of Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Sean McVay: “You know, when Sean first came on board in 2017, I’m sure as you’ve probably heard, the theme was ‘We, not me.’ That really permeated through the entire organization. It was such a collaborative approach with everybody involved and it wasn’t just coaching and scouting. It was coaching, scouting, player development, athletic performance. I mean, everything was such a collaborative approach that that truly was a big ingredient for the recipe of success that we had in that quick turnaround.”
On how the defense gets rebuilt: “Please don’t get mad at me if I don’t use the word rebuild, if I just continue to pivot toward retool. But I do think that there are some building blocks on this defense currently. Obviously, we will address that side of the ball just like we’ll address the offensive side of the ball. There is no area that we won’t work to improve in. But I do think that there are some good, young talented pieces that are still in their phase of developing. I do think that there’s some veterans that have brought good production to the table. I would definitely say, definitely going to retool in some areas, but there are some building blocks there.”
On what gives him the confidence to build a culture inside the building after working so heavily outside the building during his time with the Rams: “When I started with the Rams in St. Louis, I was inside that building for close to a decade, and within that time I was able to learn how everything works. I was able to learn how the pro side worked, how the college side worked, how the football operations worked. I was very fortunate within my role, especially at the early stages, I did a lot of work with the coaching staff. And through that time, I really got a very good appreciation and understanding of how everything operated from an entire football operations standpoint. And even since the team relocated to L.A., and I was in Atlanta, I spent an extraordinarily long amounts of time in L.A., all the way to the point where I almost qualified for residency out there in California, and in really critical times, too. Long amounts of time as we’re ramping up for postseason play, long amounts of time as we’re getting ready for free agency, in that building for long extended amounts of time as we’re getting ready for the Combine, and then obviously through the entire draft process. So, that’s a part that I feel very confident in, in terms of my experience that I’ve spent inside the building, both not only in St. Louis, but also in Los Angeles.”
On the discussions of hiring diverse individuals in the NFL and what he thinks of the Lions having a minority like himself in a prominent leadership position: “Well, that’s a great question, glad you asked it. It’s something that’s very important to me. I’ll take you back, like I was saying, that my dad played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he was an offensive lineman. And it was in the late ‘60s, early ’70s, where he shared with me even at a young age, when he got done playing obviously, he shared with me the experiences of his struggles that he had to go through in different, let’s say stereotypes, regarding race because he was a Black offensive lineman. And he told me about, he kind of related it to offensive linemen or quarterbacks. He said, ‘You know, when I was playing, you know, people didn’t think that Blacks should be on the offensive line or at the QB position.’ And then even up until right before I got married, we had to go through this pre-marital counseling through my wife’s church, and they told us to make vision boards, and I had never heard what a vision board was, ever. So, they explained it to me and me and my wife had to make one, and part of my vision board was it was a cutout of Ozzie Newsome hoisting a Super Bowl trophy. And that was a symbolism of hope for me at the time, to see someone like Ozzie Newsome, a successful Black GM, to hoist up a Lombardi trophy.
“And I’ll even take it a step further, as you know, I am a proud HBCU (Historically Black College-University) alum, graduate of North Carolina A&T State University. And coming from a historically Black college and university that’s deep rooted within myself and my family, I take a lot of pride in that in terms of when I cutout that picture of Ozzie Newsome hoisting up that trophy, I thought of when I was able to get this role, I said, ‘Well, I hope that I can be that same symbolism of hope for younger kids, Black and brown kids, that can look up to people like myself. Look up to people like Chris Grier. Look up to people like Andrew Berry, that are in these roles to provide hope. And the other thing that I would say on that, that I think is very important is that it’s often looked at, lack of diversity at the GM level. But one thing that I’ve always looked at is, (that) we need to continually put more effort and to improve (is) the diversity right up under the GM level. So, when I look across the League, I see that there’s less than 10 people of color that are at the director of college scouting role. There’s less than 10 in the League that are at the – if you want to call it the Assistant GM role, or whatever that No. 2 position is. So, to add more diversity to those levels, to make the pipeline even stronger, I think it will be definitely a step forward. But I can say that I’m very much appreciative that Mrs. Sheila Ford Hamp and Rod Wood, that they opened up their search to a diverse field of candidates and I’m very, very excited and I’m very, very appreciative to be in this role now.”
On what he would like to see in a head coach’s traits: “That’s a great question because I’ve always thought of and I’ve always had in my mind when I looked at a head coach, I never had a preference of, ‘He’s got to be an offensive coach, he’s got to be a defensive coach. He’s got to come from, he’s got to run this system, he’s got to run that system.’ My No. 1, core traits were, first of all, he’s got to be a leader of men. He’s got to be a leader of men. He’s got to have presence and within that presence, he’s got to have poise. He has to have confidence. He has to have command. He has to have mental toughness. He has to have intelligence, and I stress the mental toughness part because there will be ups and downs where that stress tolerance has to be at the right level, and to be able to persevere through those moments. Those are some of the tenets, a strong passion to develop. I just know that we’ll be aggressive through all avenues of player acquisition, but you know, let’s just be honest, I come from the college draft background and I look forward to building this team through the Draft. If it is a young team, I want to make sure that the head coach has a strong passion, with his assistants having a strong passion to develop players.”
On his first initial steps regarding how he will address the roster: “Initially, right immediately, once the head coach is on board, I want to make sure that we sit down and make sure that I am in direct alignment and full understanding of what his philosophy is and what his vision is. I’ve always had this question of, ‘Well, what is your vision of the team?’ I can tell you what I want it to look like, but truly it is the head coach’s vision. He’s the face of the team. He’s the voice of the team. So, I want to make sure like I was saying about the service role as a GM, I want to make sure that I’m providing the head coach and aiding him with the best possible resources to make sure that his system and philosophy is running at an elite level. So, that’s first and foremost that will have to happen and once we get that on board, then I think that’ll be a great start of a process of how we’ll dive into the initial outset of free agency and what those plans are and to make sure that we’re bringing in players that truly, truly fit. I’ll never forget when Sean (McVay) came in, in 2017 with the Rams, we signed Robert Woods and Andrew Whitworth. And you know, they might not have been, I’m not sure if you want to deem it the popular names, but they were fits. They were culture fits. They were schematic fits. So, that’s a good, intentional approach and model that I can definitely take and follow as I embark on this journey with the Lions. And you know, just for that relationship, I always said that it has to be tight as family. So, me and the head coach, we have to be – I’m sure you’ve heard, aligned at the hip, in lockstep. But I truly think, tight as family is very important because there might be times where you might not see eye to eye, but when you’re tight as family, you can work through those things and come to a winning solution.”