ALLEN PARK, Mich. — When Sheila Ford Hamp fired general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia on Nov. 28, the first-year Detroit Lions owner made one promise among a bunch of questions she couldn’t yet answer.
“We are going to do an extremely thorough and comprehensive search for both positions,” Hamp said. “And yes, we have some ideas on what we’re looking for, but again, not clearly defined.”
Detroit has made some movement since Hamp’s initial statement — hiring Chris Spielman as a special assistant to Hamp and team president Rod Wood. Spielman will be involved in every interview for both positions.
The Lions also put together an advisory committee of Fritz Pollard Alliance Executive Director Rod Graves, former Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis and Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders to assist as well — but more in the vetting process.
Still, the decision will come down to Hamp, and her thorough and comprehensive search — at least as much as it can be while still subject to NFL interviewing restrictions until the end of the season — has begun.
Here’s a snapshot look at the candidates who have interviewed thus far along with some pros and cons for their potential in Detroit.
LOUIS RIDDICK, ANALYST, ESPN
When interviewed: Dec. 18
Hometown: Quakertown, Pennsylvania
College: Pittsburgh — bachelor’s in economics
Experience: Playing: Ninth-round pick of San Francisco in 1991 as a safety; Atlanta Falcons (1992, 1996); Cleveland Browns (1993-95); Raiders (1998). Front office: Washington Football Team (2001-04 – pro scout; 2005-07 – director of pro personnel); Philadelphia Eagles (2008 – scout; 2009 – assistant director of pro personnel; 2010-13 – director of pro personnel). Other: Analyst, ESPN (2013-present)
Pros: Riddick knows the league incredibly well from his time playing, working and analyzing it. Unlike other candidates who might be in a silo of one team or one organization, Riddick has been able to learn and pick up ideas from every team in the league — similar to what Spielman described as his experience after he was hired by the Lions in his role. As a former player, he also has a different insight than someone who came up through scouting. His strength would likely lean toward pro personnel evaluation early as that’s where his scouting history lies, but he has been a prominent member of ESPN’s draft coverage since 2014, so he has delved into that area from a different perspective as well.
Cons: Experience. He hasn’t worked inside an NFL building in almost eight years and hasn’t had to do some of the day-to-day work required of a general manager for a while. The broadcaster-to-GM path has been successful lately in Mike Mayock (Las Vegas) and John Lynch (San Francisco), but in Detroit it could bring back memories — fair or not — of the last time the Lions tried this with Matt Millen. That culminated in the NFL’s first 0-16 season. Unlike Millen, Riddick has worked in a front office, but in this particular job that’s a stigma he’ll have to shake, although that should be easy for him to do. If he comes in with a plan that’s similar to what Lynch has set up in San Francisco, with experienced personnel men around him, that would be a benefit.
KYLE O’BRIEN, DETROIT LIONS VICE PRESIDENT OF PLAYER PERSONNEL
When interviewed: Week of Dec. 7
Hometown: Garden City, N.Y.
College: Harvard ’02 (played lacrosse)
Experience: New York Jets (1999 – intern, player personnel department); New England Patriots (2000-01 – player personnel intern; 2002-03 – area scout; 2004-05 – pro personnel scout; 2006-09 – area scout; 2010-11 – national scout); Kansas City Chiefs (2012 – national scout); Jacksonville Jaguars (2013-15 – director of college scouting); Detroit Lions (2016 – director of player personnel; 2017-present – vice president of player personnel)
Pros: O’Brien is incredibly smart and a good and thorough evaluator. While he came in with his good friend, former Lions GM Bob Quinn, they had different pathways. Unlike Quinn, he has worked under multiple general managers (Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, very briefly John Dorsey, Dave Caldwell and Quinn). His background in scouting should help with evaluation, and if hired, there wouldn’t be a large changeover in scouting language, which could be potentially even more important this offseason. His name has been linked to potential general manager gigs in prior seasons.
Cons: He was Quinn’s No. 2 in command, which if you’re trying to reboot the organization won’t bode well and will look like passing the buck. Many of the Lions’ decisions under Quinn and Patricia have not panned out, both in the draft and free agency, and some of that will fall to O’Brien, too. The better route for him might be to potentially stick around in his No. 2 role if the Lions hired someone like Pioli, Dorsey, Thomas Dimitroff or another general manager who believes O’Brien provides value, which there is no doubt he does.
ROB LOHMAN, DIRECTOR OF PRO SCOUTING
When interviewed: Week of Dec. 7
Hometown: Long Island, N.Y.
Education: South Carolina ’98 – bachelor’s in sports management; Syracuse ‘01 – master’s in higher education
Experience: Hofstra (1998 – special teams/recruiting assistant); Syracuse (1999-2001 – graduate assistant); Houston Texans (2001 – scouting intern; 2002-03 – pro administrator; 2003 – advance scout; 2004-06 – northeast regional scout); Detroit Lions (2007 – advance scout; 2008-14 – regional scout/college scouting coordinator; 2016-19 – assistant director of pro scouting; 2019-present – director of pro scouting)
Pros: Lohman has been around for multiple regimes in Detroit — Matt Millen, Martin Mayhew and Bob Quinn — so he has seen various ways of doing things. He also worked under Charley Casserly in Houston, so he knows what’s worked well and what hasn’t. When someone can stay with one place through varying changes, that’s usually a good sign. He handles pro player evaluation and oversaw advance scouts, pro player evaluation and free agency. For instance, he would have been part of the group that made the decision to pick up Romeo Okwara off waivers, which was a win. Experience on the college and pro sides of scouting and personnel is also valuable.
Cons: He has a lot of ties to the past, which might not be appealing when the team’s trying to create a new vision, although he predates Patricia and Quinn. His long tenure with the organization might be the biggest mark against him for this particular job. Detroit hasn’t done a great job in free agency the past two seasons — Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Desmond Trufant have largely been injured and Nick Williams has been unproductive. It’s not entirely clear how many of Detroit’s free-agency decisions the past two seasons — especially the Patriots players — had much to do with his recommendations and those of Quinn and Patricia. As with O’Brien, the better possibility for Lohman, who is very talented, is for an outside hire to stick with him in his current role.
LANCE NEWMARK, DIRECTOR OF PLAYER PERSONNEL
When interviewed: Week of Dec. 7
Hometown: La Mesa, California
Education: University of San Diego – social sciences
Experience: San Diego Chargers (1996-97 – staff assistant); Detroit Lions (1998 – player personnel department; 1999 – scout; 2000-2015 – area scout (six years); national scout (three years); assistant director of college scouting (seven years); 2016-17 – director of college scouting; 2017-present – director of player personnel)
Pros: Newmark is very well-versed in the world of college scouting and has seen it all over the years as he has worked his way up through the Lions organization and is one of the few remaining employees from the pre-Matt Millen era. He knows every piece of Detroit’s system, including where things went well and not-so-well. He’s someone trusted in college scouting evaluations and worked managing Detroit’s roster. He was one of Quinn’s in-the-room people — he, Lohman, O’Brien and Mike Disner were Quinn’s core group of evaluators — so he wouldn’t have to change much.
Cons: Like Lohman and O’Brien, he was around for the past three seasons and Newmark has seen a lot of failure in Detroit. Could that experience help change the team’s fortunes? Sure. But the reality is simple: The Lions are not casting this massive net to hire someone who’s already in the building.