Katzenstein: Lions off to good start in GM search

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Lions coaches, players and fans surely don't want to hear this, but the true impact of the next general manager likely won't be immediate.

Three teams hired general managers last offseason — Ryan Pace for Chicago, Scot McCloughan for Washington, and Mike Maccagnan for the N.Y. Jets. All three teams finished with a better record than in 2014, but only Washington made the postseason.

To expect the Lions to contend for a Super Bowl in a general manager's first season would be foolish.

That's why, for now, the hiring process is just as important as the person the Ford family hires. And one reason is because of the statement owner Martha Firestone Ford made after firing president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew.

"We are beginning a national search for the best leadership to manage our team going forward," she said. "I want to assure our fans that we intend to identify and hire the very best leadership in order to produce a consistently winning football team. Our fans deserve a winning football team, and we will do everything possible to make it a reality."

Ford and the other people involved in the search have to follow through. They already skirted the national search for their president, hiring Rod Wood. But that was understandable because he'll be more involved with the financial aspect of the franchise.

When it comes to the personnel side, the Lions must look everywhere. In theory, hiring Ernie Accorsi as a consultant should help target the top candidates.

They seem to be off to a good start as the pool of names begins to come out.

Among the candidates Detroit plans to interview are Trent Kirchner, Seattle's co-director of player personnel; and Bob Quinn, New England's director of pro scouting — both from winning franchises.

Caldwell says he's not dwelling on season's 'what ifs'

And, the Lions also would be smart to interview interim general manager Sheldon White. Sure, Lions fans want a complete housecleaning, but the Lions do have some good scouts and have made some solid draft picks.

Even if White doesn't get the job, maybe he'd be more inclined to stay in a pro personnel position where he's helped bring in key contributors in recent years.

But, White, Quinn and Kirchner can't be the only ones interviewed. There should be more, even if the Lions know teams will turn down their requests to interview potential candidates.

Nobody should judge the early stages of the GM search by Will McClay, the Cowboys' senior director of college and pro scouting, declining an interview, as NFL Network reported.

If Eliot Wolf, director of player personnel for the Packers, and Eric DeCosta, assistant general manager for the Ravens, are top talent evaluators, the Lions should request interviews.

The only way for the Lions to find the best general manager is with the thorough search Ford promised.

Around the NFC North

■For the first time since 2009, the Vikings (11-5) won the NFC North after beating the Packers, 20-13. Minnesota might not look like a Super Bowl team, but its defense should make it competitive in the postseason.

■The Packers (10-6) couldn't extend their run of four straight division titles. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had the worst season of his career by just about every metric.

■The Bears (6-10) finished in last in the division a second straight year after losing to the Lions, 24-20. Chicago could look different next season depending on what happens with running back Matt Forte and receiver Alshon Jeffery in free agency.

Around the NFL

■Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson probably has been the best player the past seven games. During that stretch, he has 24 touchdowns and one interception as the Seahawks went 6-1. Seattle could be heading for a third straight Super Bowl appearance.

■The Texans could be tough to beat in the postseason because of their defense. Houston had eight sacks in the finale against the Jaguars.

■Watch out for the Chiefs, who have won 10 straight. Quarterback Alex Smith has a 108.6 passer rating in three postseason games to go with a 9-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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