Wojo: Quinn’s measured approach makes good impression
Allen Park — There are no obvious, easy ways to construct a football team, so Bob Quinn did the smart thing Monday. He didn’t offer any fake, flashy ones.
The Lions new GM is sharp and personable and very New England-y, right down to the accent. He’s also methodical, blunt and a bit bland, which pretty much describes the wildly successful Patriots, for whom he worked 16 years.
Quinn seems far more interested in winning games than winning people over, an important distinction we don’t often see around here. That’s why it’s not an issue — not in my mind — that he was shy on specifics at his introductory news conference, and wouldn’t even offer a timetable on the fate of coach Jim Caldwell.
Martha Ford and team president Rod Wood said the coaching decision will be solely Quinn’s, as it should be, and their first acts have earned them some public trust. They said they’d search nationally for a GM who would have full control of football operations, and that’s exactly what they did.
I’ll say it again — Caldwell certainly deserves consideration to return for a third season. His record is solid, his staff is good and his connection with key players is excellent. His in-game management is questionable, but after getting beaten by Aaron Rodgers’ epic pass, Caldwell threw his own Hail Mary and went 6-2 down the stretch.
Quinn said he met Caldwell for the first time Monday, for about 30 seconds, and planned to meet extensively with him later. He also expected to talk to Matthew Stafford and other players about their coach. Quinn isn’t revealing any kind of a lean, and I’m sure Caldwell wants to know as soon as possible. But I’d suggest every day he remains increases his odds of staying.
If it’s not Caldwell, it could be one of New England’s coordinators — Josh McDaniels or Matt Patricia. If Quinn fired Caldwell and brought in another ex-Pat, that’d be his right. It would be a popular move and maybe even the right move, but based on the checkered head-coach history of Patriots assistants, you can’t say it’s a slam dunk move.
With the Patriots in the playoffs and McDaniels and Patricia busy, the timetable is relatively flexible. And understand, Quinn never has done any of this — be a GM, hire or fire a coach, build a team. He strikes me as someone who isn’t rushed and isn’t rash, so if the decision takes a little while, I don’t think it’s cause for concern.
“I need to get to know Jim,” Quinn said. “I’ve heard great things about him from others around the league, but I’m not gonna make a snap judgment. The building process, from the ground level up, takes time. It’s not just figuring out who the coach will be.”
Ready to be GM
If you wanted venom and victims Monday, Quinn wasn’t playing that game, and that’s fine. He looks younger than 39, and at times during the first major news conference of his life, he looked nervous. But not once did Quinn look lost, nor did he offer up a meaty platter of bloated platitudes. No guarantees, no boasts, no timetables.
You could see why Wood and consultant Ernie Accorsi zeroed in on Quinn, despite his inexperience, and it wasn’t just because he was part of four Super Bowl championship teams.
“He’s clearly ready, and I’m glad we got him before other organizations identified him,” Wood said. “There aren’t that many candidates in our view that are ready to step into that role. He brings in a fresh approach, a different way of doing things.”
How about this way: methodical and unemotional. That means players’ support of Caldwell might not matter, if Quinn believes he can hire a better coach. That means ownership’s affinity for Caldwell can’t be the deciding factor, something Ford reiterated after the news conference when asked about the coach’s future.
“I love Jim Caldwell,” she said. “But I don’t want to answer that question.”
Homework comes first
Martha Ford seems very aware of the major knock against her husband, the late William Clay Ford Sr. He was too loyal, emotionally attached to people instead of performance. She showed she was different by firing Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand at midseason, and again by choosing Quinn over anyone connected to the Lions, such as interim GM Sheldon White.
But this is where it’ll get tricky, and why we shouldn’t immediately judge Quinn by how he picks his first coach. Caldwell can be a persuasive man with a commanding presence, so if Quinn keeps him, does that mean he caved to emotion? If he dismisses Caldwell and hires, say, McDaniels, does that mean he caved to personal loyalty? Not necessarily, and not necessarily.
Quinn talked about his own strengths in player evaluation and the importance of roster depth, as the Patriots prove year after year, injury after injury. And as he debates Caldwell’s status, he said he’d look at his entire career, not just this season or the final eight games.
“It’s going to be my feeling about if I can work with coach Caldwell, his philosophies, his beliefs, will they mesh with mine?” Quinn said. “The scouting staff and the coaching staff have to mesh together. If you can’t have that, it’s going to be a hard mix. So I really want to get to know coach Caldwell and see if we can work together.”
Quinn said he comes with no preconceived notions, and knows it’s not as easy as cutting and pasting what worked at New England. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have been there 16 years, unparalleled continuity. Other Patriots executives have left and done poorly, so some wonder if the success is all about the coach and the quarterback. Ready or not, Quinn is about to put that theory to another critical test.