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Quinn on keeping Caldwell: Making playoffs 'pretty difficult'

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Lions general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Jim Caldwell on the field at the Superdome before Detroit takes on New Orleans.

Allen Park — Bob Quinn has no plans to talk to the local media until after the season, but the Lions general manager joined “Late Hits” on SiriusXM Wednesday night to discuss a number of topics, including his decision to retain coach Jim Caldwell for the 2017 season.

Quinn listed two primary reasons for keeping Caldwell.

“He, and his staff, have really put together this team with the help of my scouting staff,” Quinn said. “They’ve really done a good job developing our younger players. We’ve got quite a number of rookies on the team that are playing significant roles. I’m really happy with how that has gone.

“And making the playoffs is pretty difficult to do in this league as a lot of coaches and front office people know,” Quinn said. “I was really glad to bring Jim back next year and excited about keeping the focus on Saturday night in Seattle.”

Quinn’s comments about keeping focus on the team’s upcoming playoff game echo Caldwell’s from earlier in the day, when he expressed gratitude for the continued opportunity with the Lions, but declined any further questions about his job status.

Caldwell has led the Lions to the playoffs twice in his first three seasons, becoming the third coach in franchise history to do so.

As for developing young players, Quinn has been happy with the performance of his rookie class, particularly along the offensive line.

“Taylor Decker started every game at left tackle and that’s a pretty difficult feat for a rookie,” Quinn said. “He’s done a really solid job. That position is a really hard position to play and Taylor has done a really nice job of getting better every week and really studying his opponent and knowing what kind of game he needs to play each and every week.”

Quinn also highlighted third-round pick Graham Glasgow’s ability to start at both guard and center, as well as the performances of defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, linebacker Antwione Williams and safety Miles Killebrew.

“I’m really happy with way the rookie class has come in, competed and helped us this season,” Quinn said. “And I think, as we all know in this profession, the biggest jump for players is year one to year two, so I have great expectations for these guys being even better next year.”

Upgrading the backfield

Quinn is a big Zach Zenner fan. He said the Lions running back caught the attention of the New England Patriots staff last preseason, when he led the NFL in rushing. Since becoming the general manager and getting to see Zenner up close, Quinn has been been impressed by the player’s work ethic, toughness and instincts.

Still, Quinn will be looking to improve the position this offseason.

“We’ll definitely try to get better at the running back position, and all the other positions,” Quinn said. “As everyone knows, that’s a position where you need quality depth because the durability with those guys sometimes doesn’t last through the whole season.”

Pulling for Austin

Quinn didn’t know defensive coordinator Teryl Austin before coming to the Lions, but two things have really impressed the general manager about the coach.

“First, the way he handles the player,” Quinn said. “He has a really great working relationship. He can get on them when it’s time to get on them, but he can also have a really good rapport with everyone in the room, whether it’s the defensive lineman, the secondary or the linebackers.

“He’s also a really well-rounded coach who can put everything together on the defense,” Quinn continued. “His history is with the defensive backs, but he can go out and help the defensive line. He does a really good job of managing the game and obviously his play-calling is really his calling card.”

Two teams, the San Diego Chargers and Los Angeles Rams, have reportedly requested to interview Austin for their head coaching vacancies. Quinn said the Lions are supportive of his pursuit for a head job and hopeful he gets the opportunity.

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