Niyo: Lions are taking Patriot Way under new GM Quinn
Allen Park — We’ll be hearing a lot about the Patriot Way in the coming weeks and months.
But the best way to describe it is it’s the only way once you’re a part of it.
And now that the Lions are, with the hiring of Bob Quinn, who spent the last 16 years in the Patriots organization, as their new general manager, it’s only a matter of time before we see it.
Monday, we heard our first snippets of it, in Quinn’s “Bahston” accent and in his unadorned answers. But we also heard it as he explained, mostly in broad strokes, both his views of and his vision for this football team.
Quinn, 39, talked about the job as a “challenge” and made it clear he’ll do what Bill Belichick does every day with the Patriots, challenging everyone to “do your job.” His primary task, he says, will be to make sure everyone is “on the same page.”
And though Quinn insisted “I’m not going to try to come in here and cut-and-paste everything we did with the Patriots,” remember, this is the only playbook he knows.
The Patriot Way is rooted in a simple mantra, imparted quickly and often to everyone in that organization, from the front office to the locker room, and from the high-profile starters to the practice squad.
“When you win, say little,” Belichick tells his players. “And when you lose, say less.”
Quinn really didn’t say much in his introductory news conference Monday. Some of that is because he’d only just arrived. (“I just got here this morning,” he said, smiling. “I literally got off the plane a couple hours ago.”) And some of it surely is because he’s not ready to answer most of the pressing questions about his new team, starting with the head coach — Jim Caldwell’s fate still hangs tenuously in the balance — and continuing through the entire football operation.
But when Quinn talks about “building the processes from the ground level up,” that probably doesn’t bode well for a lot of folks already in the building.
“It takes time,” Quinn said. “Listen, this isn’t just figuring out who the coach is gonna be. This is ‘Who are the scouts? Who are the trainers?’ … Everyone in the organization needs to do their job to the best of their ability to win games.”
That’s what they’ve done in New England, far better than anyone else. Since Belichick’s arrival there in 2000, New England has won 73 percent of its games (208-77), six AFC titles and four Super Bowls. Year after year, it’s as if the Patriots are playing chess, while the rest of the league is playing checkers.
“Their track record speaks for itself,” said Ernie Accorsi, the former NFL GM who helped shepherd Quinn to the Lions as a paid consultant.
Floyd Reese, the former NFL general manager who spent four years in New England as a senior adviser to Belichick, says it’s hard to explain, really.
“To be honest, the ‘Patriot Way’ is a way of life,” Reese said. “You just can’t point to three things and say, ‘This is the Patriot Way.’ ”
But it’s easy to point out the way they’ve done it is far different than the way the Lions, among others, have tried — and failed — in the past. While other teams spend big on free agents and covet high draft picks, the Patriots make do without, churning their roster and focusing on the guts of it, an area where Quinn noted Monday the Lions — despite a concerted effort from his predecessor, Martin Mayhew -- are still sorely lacking.
“There are a few core players here that are top players in the NFL that we’re gonna build around,” Quinn said, including quarterback Matthew Stafford in that group.
But, he added, “We’re gonna find better players to help the middle class of this team.”
That’s easier said than done, of course, and we’ll see soon enough how intends to do that, with two dozen pending free agents, a slew of draft picks and plenty of cap space.
Diamonds in the rough
But the starry-eyed days finally might be a thing of the past in Detroit. New England ranked third in the NFL in scoring this season without a single first-round draft pick starting on offense.
And as Accorsi noted this weekend, several players that were on the Patriots’ roster for last year’s Super Bowl win weren’t with the team to start the season.
“One of my main roles with the Patriots was to find that next player, and I feel like we are going to have to do that here,” said Quinn, who had a hand in acquiring a few ex-Lions this fall, including tight end Michael Williams via trade and tackle LaAdrian Waddle off waivers.
Just don’t ask him to take credit for any of that.
“No one at the Patriots does,” Quinn reminded us Monday. “There are at least 10 people that go into the evaluation and the selection process. I might be one of those 10, here or in New England, but I’m never gonna take credit for one player. It’s gonna be the player the Detroit Lions pick.”
Which direction it goes from there, no one can say for sure. But with Quinn taking the reins, we certainly know which way the Lions hope their headed.