Lions president Rod Wood doesn't rule out hiring head coach before general manager
The Detroit Lions' next general manager and head coach almost certainly will come from the known pool of candidates who already have been interviewed or are lined up to interview this week and next.
Additionally, the team is comfortable waiting until after the Super Bowl to make one of those hires, if necessary, according to team president and CEO Rod Wood.
Wood met virtually with local media Tuesday morning to wrap the team's 2020 season and speak broadly about the franchise's ongoing search for new football leadership.
So far, the Lions have interviewed seven candidates for the general manager vacancy, with four others reportedly on the docket the next two weeks. They've also knocked out a pair of head-coaching interviews, with Marvin Lewis last week and Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy on Monday. The Lions will be meeting with interim head coach Darrell Bevell on Tuesday morning, and three more candidates in the coming days.
Interestingly, Wood said the Lions are open to hiring a coach before a GM.
"We're not really wed to a structure, and we're not waiting for a GM to be hired to find the head coach," Wood said. "As we've gone through the interview process with both GMs and head-coaching candidates, we've been sharing our ideas and they've been sharing with us their ideas on who a good coach would be, if it was a general manager candidate, and vice versa if it was a head-coaching candidate.
"So, there is going to be no surprise, I think, at the end who we end up hiring on both sides," Wood said. "What we're looking for is people who can work together and be partners and not one working for the other necessarily. So it doesn't require us to hire a general manager first. It may work out that way because we're a little bit ahead on the general manager search, relative to the head-coaching search, but if we find the perfect head coach, and we've not yet found a general manager, we're not going to wait on the coach. You know, we're in competition with other teams who are going to meet with some of the same people, and it's important I think to get the right coach, and if that means we have to hire a coach first, that's what we'll do."
There is plenty of recent precedent for teams hiring a coach first during a dual search. The Browns did it last year with Kevin Stefanski and Andrew Berry, the Raiders with Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock and the Washington Football Team with Ron Rivera and a still-to-be-named GM.
Regardless of who the franchise hires, Wood, along with owner Sheila Ford Hamp and adviser Chris Spielman, have developed the a specific set of criteria they are looking for in those individuals.
"I won't share all of them with you, but I would say they focus on leadership, culture, teamwork, awareness of each other's strengths and weaknesses," Wood said. "And what we're really looking for is a culture that's open and inclusive, where everybody is pulling together as a team, and one where communication is paramount and everybody is doing the right thing for the Detroit Lions. So the people that we're looking for, and the people that we're bringing in to interview, I think exhibit those traits. As we go through the interview process, hopefully we'll find people that we're 100% confident will be the right people for the organization."
Wood reflected on the difference of this search process, compared to the ones that landed former general manager Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia. Wood said during those searches, the team was far more focused on the accomplishments of the candidates, more than how they would fit a pre-crafted list of traits the team developed ahead of the interview process.
He also acknowledged the wider scopes of these searches. The Lions interviewed just three people before hiring Quinn.
With the current searches, all interviews have been conducted virtually due to NFL protocols. Admittedly, that's made the process more efficient, but Wood said once they've narrowed it down to one or two finalists for each position, meeting in-person for a second interview is a priority. That can't happen with some of the candidates, like Bieniemy, until their teams have been eliminated from the post season.
But like the Lions did when they hired Patricia three years ago, they're willing to wait if they believe they've found the right man for the job.
"There's no deadline on our process," Wood said.