‘Best GM interview’ pushed Lions toward Quinn

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Martha Firestone Ford and Bob Quinn

The Lions’ general manager search this year was a new experience for most of the people involved.

William Clay Ford Sr. was still the owner the last time the Lions hired a GM in 2009, and his son, Bill Ford Jr., played a prominent role in the organization at that time.

This year, Martha Firestone Ford, who’s been owner since Ford Sr. died two years ago, had an active role in the search. President Rod Wood, who only started working in the NFL in November, was heavily involved, too.

And the man who eventually earned the job, Bob Quinn, had never interviewed for a GM opportunity.

The only person who had significant experience in the search was Ernie Accorsi, a former GM for three teams that the Lions hired as a consultant. Quinn obviously impressed Wood and Ford when they met in Providence, R.I., two days after the 2015 season ended, and Wood shared a story last Thursday about what Accorsi thought of the young candidate.

“Ernie said, ‘Well, I’ll tell you what I thought,’” Wood told about 2,000 season-ticket holders at the Lions Member Summit at Ford Field. “He said, ‘That’s the best general manager interview I’ve ever done.’

“And he’s done a lot of them.”

Before helping the Lions, Accorsi also consulted in the most recent GM searches for the Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons, interviewing at least four candidates for each of those three teams.

With the Lions, Accorsi did just three interviews, and Quinn’s impressive first meeting was a big reason why.

“I guess I need to call Ernie and say thank you,” Quinn said after Wood told the story.

The Lions also interviewed Kevin Abrams, the assistant GM for the New York Giants who had previously worked with Accorsi, and Sheldon White, who had been the interim GM for the Lions after Ford fired Martin Mayhew in November.

The team planned to interview Trent Kirchner, the co-director of player personnel for the Seattle Seahawks, but didn’t schedule one after focusing in on Quinn. The Lions also had interview requests for other candidates, including Green Bay director of football operations Eliot Wolf, but that request was rejected by the Packers.

But, Accorsi had heard rave reviews about Quinn before the process began in earnest in January, and Wood said Quinn was immediately the top candidate. Wood said he sent Patriots coach and de-facto GM Bill Belichick an email at 12:01 a.m. on Monday after the season ended to request an interview with Quinn.

Then, on that Tuesday, Wood, Ford and Accorsi spent four hours interviewing Quinn in Providence. In that interview, Wood said it was apparent that Quinn had been preparing for such an opportunity for most of his professional career.

Two days later, Quinn flew to Detroit to meet the entire Ford family, and Ford and Wood believed they had found the right man to make personnel decisions.

“Based upon our, what seems like five years but it’s really been like eight weeks of working together, it’s been a great addition to the franchise,” Wood said of Quinn. “He’s built a great team underneath him, some of whom you’ve heard about, some of whom you haven’t that you’ll get to know over time. And I’m very, very confident, and I agree with Ernie that we got the right guy.”