Detroit — Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn joined the broadcast team of Matt Shepard and Chris Spielman for the final 10 minutes of the third quarter during Thursday night's preseason game. Here is a full transcript from that conversation.
Q: How have you found the reception in your first year?
Quinn: “The reception has been great. The fans here, they’ve been tremendous. Whether it’s been seeing people in my neighborhood, people at the airport, they’re just dying for a winner. So we’re trying to provide that for them. It’s been a great first couple months that I’ve been here.”
Q: What your philosophy beyond building the trenches?
Quinn: “Sure. You have to improve every aspect of the team. We obviously started this year looking at the offensive and defensive lines. We did that early in the draft, but it’s every roster spot. Every roster spot one through 53, and this time of the year it’s one through 90. We make transactions on almost a daily basis, trying to churn the bottom of the roster and get the most competitive guys in here.”
Q: How important is it to be on the same page with your head coach?
Quinn: “It’s very important. I think it’s the most important relationship in a football organization. Me and Jim (Caldwell), we spend hours upon hours together each day, talking about the team, talking about players. It’s been great so far.”
Q: Can you explain your philosophy about developing players?
Quinn: “It’s a balancing act this time of year, talking about what kind of guys get playing time in the preseason. During cut-down day, which guys are eligible for the practice squad, which guys aren’t? There’s a lot that goes into it. And you’re right, you don’t want to give up on young players even though they might not be ready for Week 1. You envision those guys being ready Week 8 or Week 9, when you might need them.”
Q: Does it get old when people try comparing the new-look Lions to what you did in New England?
Quinn: “I’ll say I was a very, very small part of all the championships and winning we did in New England. We had great leadership, starting with the owner down to the head coach. And we had one of the best quarterbacks of all-time. I’m not going to take credit for what we did in New England. I might be a very, very small part of it, so if I can take a few things that I learned there and apply them here, that’s what I’m looking for.”
Q: What was that biggest lesson?
Quinn: “Roster management, building a roster, like we were talking about. Giving young guys a chance. Always trying to improve that roster at any time of the year. Whether it’s the middle of summer, when staffs are on vacation, you might make a waiver claim when someone tries to cut somebody. That’s something I learned from coach (Bill) Belichick, there’s always a time and place to improve the roster and it doesn’t matter what time of year?”
Q: What do you say to calm fans about Taylor Decker’s rookie struggles?
Quinn: “Just watching the first quarter, and he played a little bit of the second quarter, he did a little bit better job this game. We’re asking for improvement for all our rookies, all our young players. The one great thing, he goes against Ziggy (Ansah) every day in practice. I don’t know if you can quantify that, but I think that’s going to help him out come the regular season.”
Q: (More on Decker)
Quinn: “You know, Taylor was probably the most athletic guy in his conference, out at tackle. You can go out and dance with those speed rushers at the college level, but at the NFL, it’s a whole different animal. He’s definitely working on his technique and on the pass game.”
Q: On the defensive line:
Quinn: “Yeah, A’Shawn (Robinson) did a nice job in preseason week one and he’s getting some playing time here in the second half. A’Shawn in an interesting story because he comes from a Nick Saban defense and that’s a two-gap style defense, and we’re playing a one-gap, get up the field with coach (Kris) Kocurek and (Teryl Austin), so he’s being taught a bit different style, but he’s really picking it up well.”
Q: Is it tough to be patient?
Quinn: “I need to strive for patience because I want to build this thing the right way, not just for the short-term. I’m in this thing for the long haul. I want to make sure this team is built the right way so it can have continued success over the years.”
Q: If you had to describe the team’s strength, what would it be?
Quinn: “Our strength right now would probably be the overall depth of the team. That’s one thing we strived for in free agency and the draft. Our skill positions, our wide receivers with the top three are really strong. Once we get some of our tight ends back, that’s a pretty strong position. And the depth of our defensive line right now is one of the biggest things right now – not that opened our eyes because we thought we had it – but to see these guys go out and perform in these first couple preseason games and the practices out in Pittsburgh.”
Q: And a good starting quarterback?
Quinn: “Yep. It all starts at the quarterback and Matthew (Stafford) has done a great job here in the preseason.”
Q: Was makes Stafford a franchise guy?
Quinn: “Obviously everyone knows his physical skill set. He’s got one of the best arms in the NFL. Over the second half of last season, he really showed that decision-making under Jim Bob Cooter’s new offense. We hope to see that continue for the start of the regular season for us.”
Q: How important is getting DeAndre Levy back?
Quinn: “DeAndre started practicing this week. Practiced Tuesday, ran around a little bit during our walkthroughs. We’re hoping to get him a little more practice time next week and really get him geared up for the regular season.”
Q: Do you feel you have a strong foundation at the key positions?
Quinn: “Yeah, that was one of the things when I interviewed for this job back in January, you look at the roster, you look at the quarterback, a pass rusher, a corner, and you’re like, all right, that to go along with great ownership, that gives you half a chance to make a good team here. That was one thing that was really intriguing to me was that there was some key pieces in place.”
Q: Have you had a chance to do anything else but football since coming to Detroit?
Quinn: “There were a couple weeks in the summer where it was quiet and we were able to get away, but other than that, it’s been football 24/7.”
Q: Importance of practicing with another team this training camp?
Quinn: “I think it’s a great way, first off, to evaluate your own team. These guys are hitting their own teammates for like the first 10 days of camp, and as you know, it gets kind of monotonous and it’s like, all right, I already know what he does. The competition level really evens out at that time of camp, so it’s really good to change it up a little bit, practice against another team. Pittsburgh is a 3-4 defense, we’re going to see a 3-4 defense the first couple weeks of the season. Coach Caldwell has a great relationship with Coach (Mike) Tomlin, and all those things together, plus the great setup in Latrobe, made it a really worthwhile experience.”
Q: And there were no fights at the practice.
Quinn: “Coach Caldwell and Coach Tomlin sat down with our leadership groups on both teams before the first practice and they had a little talk about how things would go and I thought the leadership groups on both teams did a great job. We really had nothing to speak of, in terms of fisticuffs.”
Q: Is it fair to suggest Marvin Jones is a lot better than people thought?
Quinn: “I sure hope so. We did a lot of work on Marvin. He was a guy, even at my old job, in the middle of last season I had my eye on as I guy I would target there. With the retirement of Calvin Johnson, he was our number one target and we were fortunate enough to be able to get him.”
Q: What do you like about him?
Quinn: “One of things we really looked at hard is what kind of routes can he run. We sat down with my staff, the personnel department and the coaches, and he can really run any route on the tree, which really gives us flexibility with the routes we can run with three wide receivers or two wide receivers out there.”
Q: What are your overall thoughts on the NFC North?
Quinn: “The division is going to be very tough, no question about it. The easiest way to the playoffs is winning your division. That’s our first goal is to win the division. We’re going to go out and battle those teams week in and week out and hopefully win six or seven games in our division.”
Q: Do your injured players like Ameer Abdullah and Eric Ebron need playing time in the preseason?
Quinn: “It could be necessary, but as long as those guys are healthy on Week 1, that’s our goal. If we can get them active for Week 3 (of the preseason) a little bit, we’ll do that, but we’re not going to push anybody, just to see them in the preseason.”