Indianapolis — When Bob Quinn and Jon Robinson were working late as scouts for the Patriots, their minds would wander to the possibility of being a general manager.
“You’re like, ‘One of these days, if we keep working hard, maybe we can be in that seat,’ ” Robinson said Wednesday at the NFL combine. “You talk about it, but in the end, we just worked at our job and tried to be the best at what we would do in our role.”
Focusing on their current jobs helped Quinn and Robinson earn their jobs as executives — Quinn as Lions general manager and Robinson as Titans general manager.
Now, they both have to figure out how to mimic the success they had in New England.
In addition to Robinson, Quinn joins Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Thomas Dimitroff (Falcons) as current general managers who worked with the Patriots under Bill Belichick. Scott Pioli spent four years as general manager with the Chiefs after his time with the Patriots.
According to Licht, there isn’t much of a secret to implementing the Patriots format elsewhere, but said hiring the right people is important.
“We know how to stay in our lane,” Licht said. “We know what our jobs are, and if you accomplish that, which I think we have, then the chance of success goes up pretty high.”
Another key for a young general manager is the ability to recognize he won’t be perfect.
“Just all those things we talk about with the players, having humility and having a sense of humor and realizing that you are capable of making mistakes, Bob knows those things, and he knows that he’s got to have good people around him,” Licht said.
Considering how many scouts have become executives out of New England, clearly it had the right people in place. But the Patriots also have a system that focuses on accentuating players’ strengths and trying to avoid putting him in a position where their weaknesses might be exploited.
“New England’s a unique place, and it forces you to learn football,” said Robinson, who worked there for 12 years. “It forces you to learn more than just, ‘This player can do this.’
“It’s, ‘He can do this, and this is how he’s going to fit into our football team here.’ It teaches you big picture things when it comes to roster building.”
As far as bringing in the right people, Licht said Quinn is off to a good start with the addition of Kyle O’Brien as director of player personnel. O’Brien was with the Patriots for 12 years, and even if that’s not enough of a qualification, Licht believes O’Brien’s working relationship with Quinn should help the Lions.
Of course, the best way for the Lions to improve is for Quinn, who spent 16 years with the Patriots, to find good players.
“Finding players that have a team-first attitude,” Robinson said when asked about New England’s personnel goals. “There’s nothing more important than the football team. No one part is greater than the whole.”