Lions to hire 'proven leader' Brad Holmes as next general manager

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
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Searching for new football leadership this offseason, the Detroit Lions solved half the puzzle on Thursday, hiring Los Angles Rams director of college scouting Brad Holmes as the franchise's next general manager.

According to multiple reports, it's a five-year deal. 

Brad Holmes

"On behalf of the entire Lions organization, I am thrilled to welcome Brad Holmes to Detroit," owner Sheila Ford Hamp said in a statement. "Several weeks ago when we embarked on this process, it was critical that we find the right person to fit our vision for this team. It was evident early on that Brad is a proven leader who is ready for this opportunity. We are thrilled to introduce him to our fans as a member of our football family."

Holmes, the son of a former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman and nephew of a former first-round draft pick for the Lions, has spent the past 18 years working for the Rams. He will replace Bob Quinn, who was hired in 2016 and fired in late November, after a Thanksgiving loss to the Houston Texans effectively eliminated the team from playoff contention. 

A collegiate defensive lineman for North Carolina A&T, Holmes used his degrees in journalism and mass communication to land a public-relations position with the Atlanta Hawks shortly after graduating.

But working in football was the goal, particularly scouting, so Holmes joined the Rams an a public-relations intern in 2003. There, his passion and knowledge caught the attention of running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery, who vouched for Holmes to the franchise's former general manager Charley Armey.

Holmes moved into the scouting department, first as an intern, eventually serving as a regional scout in the all-important Southeast region.

Les Snead, the Rams general manager who has been Holmes' boss since 2012, shared his earliest impression of Holmes on Twitter

"This is when I was a (Atlanta) Falcon and Brad is a Ram," Snead said. "NFS (National Football Scouting), which runs the combine, they scout the players for the first time. Basically, in the spring, a lot of teams that are part of NFS go down and they hear the draft board for the first time. That's a tough job because no one has said this player is good or bad or the star of the show. It's these young scouts, cutting their teeth for the first time, presenting the draft board to a lot of GMs and VPs in the audience.

"There was a young man, Brad Holmes, first time presenting, (did a) unbelievable job," Snead said. "At that point in time, Billy Devaney was GM of the Rams and I remember texting Billy after hearing Brad present and saying, 'Hey, that young man is special.'"

Shortly after taking the Rams GM job, Snead promoted Holmes to be his college scouting director. In the years since, the franchise that has drafted defensive tackle Aaron Donald, quarterback Jared Goff and wide receiver Cooper Kupp while establishing itself as a consistent contender in the NFC. 

"We are all excited for this opportunity for Brad," Snead said in a statement. “He has spent his entire career with the Rams and he earned this position with the Lions due to his dedication to being an astute evaluator of football talent, dynamic intelligence, unwavering leadership and humility. All of those qualities will ensure he is set up to be successful in this next chapter of his career."

In a wide-ranging interview with Yahoo! in 2019, Holmes talked about his scouting philosophy, specifically the importance of looking beyond physical traits.

"When you get to the NFL level, everybody has got ability," Holmes said. "Everybody is talented. Everybody is big, strong, athletic, fast, agile. Everybody has that. The separation is the intangibles. So you have to find out what actually drives the player. What level of passion does he have? How much does football mean to him? How hard does he really work? Does he have a mental toughness when things go bad? Can he bounce back? Can he persevere?

"...Looking back at how I used to be so enamored with the physical traits portion of it, at this stage now it’s like, man, if this guy doesn’t have the intangibles or the character, he’s not going to make it," Holmes said. "They’re just not. And those are some of the hardest things to figure out. You can figure out speed and ability. Heart — there’s just not an analytical measure for that."

That attitude clearly played a role in the selections of Donald, who was widely viewed as under-sized coming out of the University of Pittsburgh, and Kupp, who played at a small school and posted a relatively slow 40-yard time at the combine. 

In an interview with The Athletic this fall, Holmes further elaborated on not putting too much stock in combine results while discussing rookie safety Jordan Fuller, who after being selected in the sixth round of the draft, started 12 games for the Rams this season. 

“That coherent-seeking part of our brains, it will value that piece of information so highly that it will trump the logic that you could combat that information with, like a 40 time," Holmes said. "Then you back that up with recency bias because that’s like, the last thing you saw (from him).

“When you look back at it, it’s like, ‘What really holds more weight? The real evidence that you saw with your own eyes? Plus the elite intangibles and intelligence that he has? Or that number that he produced at the combine, (which doesn’t involve) playing football?'”

Prior to hiring Holmes, the Lions interviewed a dozen candidates, including several former general managers. Holmes was the only one to have a second, in-person interview

"Throughout our search for a new general manager, Brad was someone who stood out immediately," Lions president and CEO Rod Wood said in a statement. "His abilities as a critical thinker, along with his extensive experience implementing technology and analytics into his approach to scouting, were among the many decisive qualities Brad displayed in our time getting to know him during the interview process. We look forward to him helping lead our organization as we take the next steps as a team."

With a general manager in place, the Lions now will turn their attention to securing a head coach. The team has announced interviews with seven candidates for the vacancy and are expected to make a decision in the near future. 

Holmes father, Mel, played three years for the Steelers. Uncle Luther Bradley, a cornerback, was a first-round pick for the Lions in 1978. 

The Lions are still working their way through that search process with Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles scheduled to meet with the team virtually on Friday. Additionally, Tennessee offensive coordinator Arthur Smith is reportedly in line for a second interview with the team later this week. 

With Holmes as the GM, there's a possibility the Lions seek to interview Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, an up-and-coming candidate. 

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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