Virtual draft leaves Lions GM Quinn reflecting on work-life balance

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

The NFL draft is a whirlwind. No matter how much preparation goes into it throughout the year, the tempo and long hours of the three-day event is a grind for even the most-seasoned members of a team's staff. 

Detroit Lions executive vice president and general manager Bob Quinn.

Added to that equation this year was the fact the draft was being conducted from the homes of general managers, coaches and owners, largely through video conferencing, as society continue to wade through a world battling a pandemic

Instead of each team's staff all being in the same location, decisions about the franchise's next players were being made in home offices and basements. But because of that, as the broadcast captured over and over, the draft morphed into a family event. 

In the makeshift war rooms across the country we saw cameos from spouses, children and Bill Belichick's dog. So for all the stresses and strains the draft can bring, this format ended up being a welcomed change for Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn, and one that made him reflect on what's truly important in life. 

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"You guys put in a lot of hours following our team and you guys appreciate the amount of hours that our football staff puts into it," Quinn said in a video conference with media Saturday night. "This could be a good lesson for us to kind of have a good balance in our lives in the offseason knowing that the draft is critically important to what we do, but maybe we can tone down the hours and work smarter rather than longer. Maybe do a few things virtually a day or two a week.

"I'm going to look into that," Quinn said. "I'm not going to make any promises one way or the other, but that's something I'm going to evaluate over the next couple months. I always like to take a few days, sit back, see how everything went in the offseason from when our season ended to the draft and then we always make adjustments going forward so that's something I'm going to think about."

When ESPN's cameras panned to Quinn's home war room setup, he was frequently flanked by his two children, Kyle and Grace. Since joining the Lions four years ago, Quinn's family is often visible, especially Kyle, who helps out during practice and in the locker room throughout training camp. 

And on Saturday, when the pace of the draft shifted from quick to frenzied — with just four minutes between picks the final four rounds — Quinn knew exactly where to turn for help managing the chaos, deploying his children as emergency front office interns. 

"I'll give you guys a little bit of insight, I had our draft board on kind of a poster board," Quinn said of his home setup. "It's like a 3x4 (foot) big poster board with a print out of our draft board. Today I woke up and I said I'm not going to be able to get up and cross off all the names because they come off so fast on Day 3. They got up this morning, they slept in a little bit and I said, 'All right, we have a job today.'

"They didn't miss a player," Quinn continued. "That's really important because when you're getting down to the end of the draft and in the seventh round, you're trying to look at the best names possible to sign as rookie free agents. We have a lot going on with the computer screens and the draft board, and I was staring at that and my kids had it right. I'm excited about that. We just gave them a little lesson on how rookie undrafted contracts work, so they get a little tutorial about signing bonuses and P5 guarantees. We got a couple GMs in the making around here, maybe."

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Whether this moment results in organizational or personal changes after Quinn marinates on the experience over the next few weeks, the virtual draft clearly left its mark on him more as a husband and father than as a general manager. 

"Listen, you guys know how important my family is to me," Quinn said. "You guys saw my kids on TV all weekend. I thought that was cool for them, but it's hard being a coach in this league, it's hard being a scout in this league, it's hard being a GM in this league, when you're away all the time or in the office all the time.

"If we can figure out a better work-life balance for the months of February, March and April, I'm all for it," he said. "As the leader of the organization on the football side of it, myself and coach, we're going to look at it and see what we can do for our employees to make their lives a little better."