Only time will tell if new Mighty Quinn will work

by | Jan 12, 2016 | Detroit Free Press, Sports | 0 comments

New Lions GM comes from a tradition of winning, and most would say he won the new conference Monday in Allen Park

He swatted away every difficult question. That much, apparently, he has learned from Bill Belichick.

No, Bob Quinn said, he hasn’t made a decision on coach Jim Caldwell. Yes, he will speak to him. No, he hasn’t talked to Calvin Johnson. Yes, he likes Matthew Stafford. No, he doesn’t have an overnight plan for winning. Yes, character counts in players. No, he won’t rely on just the draft to build the roster. And yes, he feels ready for this high-ranking job — even though he won’t turn 40 until later this year.

The new Mighty Quinn seems like a nice young man with a lovely family and an excellent pedigree. Of course, the same could be said of any recent Harvard graduate. That doesn’t make him a good GM of an NFL team.

Only time will tell us that. And anyone who walked away from Monday’s introductory meeting with Quinn claiming they know what’s going to happen next is either a soothsayer or a liar. Even Quinn’s father seemed slightly bemused.

“When he was kid, I wouldn’t even let him play football,” said the elder Bob Quinn, looking at the scrum of media surrounding his son. “But he was always watching it.”

The lad goes from watching to doing now, and that will be the biggest challenge. Quinn clearly has a good set of eyes, or he wouldn’t have climbed the scouting ladder under Belichick, arguably the best coach in the NFL (and according to Quinn “the greatest NFL coach in the history of the game”).

But seeing is one thing, doing is another. Quinn admitted that, having spent his entire NFL career so far with the Patriots, rising to the level of director of pro scouting, he’d never made a final decision on a player: never cut one, never promoted one.

“Bill Belichick makes all the decisions,” he stated. Quinn has also never hired or fired a coach before. He has never even interviewed a coach before. The only NFL head coach he’s watched from the inside is a gruff guy who likes sweatshirts, grumbles at the media and has won six Super Bowls (two as an assistant).

I can assure him, Jim Caldwell is not that guy.

Good first impression

Look, everyone wants a quick analysis. But this was a microwaved decision. Ernie Accorsi, who recommended Quinn to the Ford family, met Quinn for the first time only last week. Martha Firestone Ford has only met with him, what, a couple of times? Quinn said he spoke to Caldwell for “30 seconds.” How is anyone supposed to evaluate anything on this guy yet? He’s like the popcorn kernels that haven’t popped.

Having said this, I like him. At first blush. I do. Maybe because he didn’t resort to rhetoric. He didn’t try to be something he wasn’t. He strikes me as a guy who will be more comfortable behind a desk than a microphone, and the fact that he has been building to this job for the last two decades is a good sign. Not proof of success. Just a good sign.

Some worthy things Quinn said:
■On Caldwell: “I’m not going to make a snap judgment on anything. That’s not how I work.”
■On Johnson: “He’s an outstanding player. … It’s a long season, so we’re not going to rush Calvin Johnson to make a decision.”
■On the qualities of a winning team: “Consistency. It isn’t just figuring out who the coach is gonna be. Who are the scouts? Who are the trainers?”
■On things he has zero tolerance for: “Zero tolerance for domestic violence and dangerous weapons. Two things I’m not gonna stand for.”

What he never said was “When I played …” or “When I coached …” — things you often hear from GMs.

And that, more than anything, may determine his success.

A new approach

Remember, Matt Millen was a fine linebacker in the NFL. Martin Mayhew played in the league. Even Russ Thomas was a Detroit lineman before the front office.

Sometimes that helps, sometimes it hurts. Quinn reminds you of that Jonah Hill character in “Moneyball.” Never played the game, but clearly studies every nuance.

Hey, the Lions have tried it the other way. That didn’t work. Maybe a guy like Quinn is on the cusp of how things are done. Accorsi has raved about his attention to detail. Quinn spoke about looking for players who have dual talents, because that helps “free up a roster spot.” He spoke about weight room training and finding players in other leagues and the waiver wire. He seems to be a wealth of information, bottled in a slightly overwhelmed expression and background that suggests he was taught his priorities. Before going into winning or losing strategies he thanked his former employers, the Patriots, for the opportunity to do this, and the Ford family, and his own family, including wife, parents, sisters and children.

“I’m not going to try to come in here and cut and paste everything we did at the Patriots,” Quinn said. “ … We will create our own identity.”

And he will find one of his own. That’s the journey the Lions have hitched themselves to. The man has never hired a coach, never fired a player, never balanced a salary-cap ledger. The list of what is new to him is long and deep.

The one that isn’t new to him?


Let’s hope that’s the biggest contribution he makes here, when we can finally evaluate what we were all introduced to on Monday.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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