Chris Spielman

Lions Notes: GM/HC Search, Stafford, Wood

Lions president Rod Wood confirmed recently hired exec Chris Spielman is involved in the team’s coaching search, and Wood — a self-proclaimed non-football guy — has helped make some football decisions during the team’s time in between GMs, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. Wood did, however, describe his role as more of a suggestion box or sounding board to the team’s current front office. As far as the Lions’ HC and GM searches, the team’s president offered a vague description of how this search is unfolding differently.

One of the things that I think we’re doing differently that didn’t occur, at least in the searches I was involved in with Bob (Quinn) and Matt (Patricia) is really identifying what we want for a Detroit Lion coach and general manager. Not what some other team may want, but what do the Detroit Lions want?” Wood said, via Birkett. “So we’ve been discussing and detailing a lot of very specific criteria that is unique to us.”

The Lions may well be seeking a scouting type for the GM role, and Albert Breer of SI.com adds Detroit’s next coach would not need to be an offensive genius to land the job. Michigan native Robert Saleh has surfaced as an early frontrunner. Here is the latest from Detroit:

  • The Lions have interviewed eight candidates thus far for their GM position. They are not expected to stop there. The organization expects to venture well beyond 10 interviewees for this role, Breer tweets. Thus far, the Lions have interviewed unattached and internal candidates, with Rick Smith, Scott Pioli and Louis Riddick being the biggest names involved thus far.
  • One of the lower-profile candidates, however, may have some momentum. Rams college scouting director Brad Holmes is expected to be interviewed, and Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal tweets Holmes is viewed as a serious candidate to succeed Quinn. Holmes has been with the Rams for 18 years. The Lions will have competition, however. The Falcons are also expected to meet with Holmes.
  • Regarding head coach interviews, the Lions have waited. They are not opting to take advantage of a recent NFL rule change that allowed virtual interviews with candidates, Breer tweets. The franchise will then go through the usual search process, which can begin next week.
  • While Matthew Stafford has been the Lions’ QB1 since arriving in 2009, he has been mentioned in trade speculation for a bit now. The next coach hired will be Stafford’s fourth full-time HC, and the next GM will be the third of Stafford’s career. Some in the Lions organization are wondering if Stafford would be willing to be part of another rebuild, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Stafford was involved in trade rumors earlier this year, but Quinn shot down that possibility and kept the 32-year-old passer. With Stafford’s $27MM-per-year contract no longer close to the top of the QB market, teams will be interested in the cannon-armed passer — should the next Lions regime entertain offers. A few AFC teams — like the Broncos, Colts or Patriots — and the 49ers profile as teams that could be interested in the veteran.

Lions Fire ST Coordinator Brayden Coombs

The Lions have fired special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs, per a team announcement. Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com writes that special teams assistant Marquice Williams will take over the coordinator position for the final two games of the season.

Coombs, 34, began his coaching career as an intern with the Bengals in 2009. He served as Cincinnati’s assistant special teams coach from 2012-19, and his units were generally quite successful. The 2019 Bengals special teams unit was ranked first by Football Outsiders and fifth by Pro Football Focus, which prompted Detroit to hire Coombs as its ST coordinator back in January.

But a source told Rothstein that Coombs did not mesh with the culture that the organization is trying to create. In the Lions’ loss to the Titans yesterday, Coombs called for an unsuccessful fake punt without the knowledge of anyone else, including coaches and some players on the field. While Coombs’ abilities as a coordinator are clearly strong, the team apparently felt that his unilateral decision was emblematic of his overall approach. As Rothstein says, the team had been considering making a move for some time, and the fake punt was simply the last straw.

In related news, the Lions recently hired Chris Spielman to serve as a special assistant to chairman and president & CEO. Spielman, a franchise icon who played linebacker for the Lions from 1988-95, will be a key voice in the general manager and head coach hires that Detroit will soon be making, and he spoke at length about the vision that principal owner Sheila Ford Hamp has in terms of the club’s direction and culture.

As Justin Rogers of the Detroit News observes, Spielman — the brother of Vikings GM Rick Spielman — and team president Rod Wood used the word “culture” 22 times in 36 minutes at Spielman’s introductory press conference last week. Organizational sources tell Rogers that Coombs’ departure is a reflection of his “me-first” attitude that undermines that culture (Twitter links).

The Lions’ GM search is well underway, with the club having interviewed or planning to interview several internal options and a host of high-profile candidates like Louis RiddickThomas Dimitroff, and Scott Pioli. The team’s head coaching interviews will obviously start in earnest at season’s end, and 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is rumored to be Detroit’s top choice.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.