By: Will Burchfield
Matthew Stafford would appreciate the opportunity to weigh in on the Lions’ search for their next head coach, as he did when they hired Jim Caldwell in 2014.
He won’t get it.
“No players will be involved in the interview process,” general manager Bob Quinn made it clear on Monday afternoon.
Caldwell was fired on Monday morning and Quinn has already begun the hunt for his replacement. He wants a strong leader who’s proficient in terms of situational football and adept at meshing his scheme with his personnel.
“Really just someone that can lead this team with the players we have and the players that we will acquire, and put them in the best position to win,” said Quinn.
For Stafford, it will represent his third head coach in the NFL. He was a rookie during the first year of Jim Schwartz’s tenure in 2009 and found himself at a crossroads in his career when Caldwell was brought on board in 2014.
The Lions consulted him during the latter process, in part to help their franchise quarterback turn around some worrisome statistical trends, but that was under different management.
“Haven’t been a part of a head-coaching search with this front office before,” Stafford said. “Obviously got to sit down and talk to some of the guys last time, appreciated that opportunity. Don’t know if it’ll happen again. If it does, if they want to make it available to me, I’d absolutely be all for it.”
But Quinn is running a different ship. He’s the captain, and steers as he pleases. The decision to fire Caldwell “was mine and mine alone,” he said, and the next step of the process will be similarly exclusive.
“The interview process will be myself and (president) Rod (Wood). We will consult with the owners on a daily basis, but they will not be involved in the actual interviews,” Quinn said.
He added that Ford is “very involved” in the day-to-day operation of the team, with the two meeting multiple times per week.
Of the names who have surfaced in Quinn’s early search for Caldwell’s successor, most are defensive coordinators, although the GM said on Monday he doesn’t have a preference one way or another. He also said he’s not particularly concerned with finding a coach whose schemes fit Stafford’s style of play.
“That’s part of it, but I think Matthew’s a good enough quarterback that he can kind of play in any system. You guys have seen him play, he can make all the throws. I don’t think it’s a big detriment of what scheme the new coach may or may not run,” Quinn said.
Stafford spoke highly of offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter after Sunday’s season finale, and did so again on Monday morning. He said the two of them see the game the same way and credited Cooter for helping him become a better quarterback over the past couple seasons.
It certainly sounds like Stafford wants his offensive coordinator back, but that decision will be out of his hands. Quinn said he’ll give the next head coach full autonomy over his staff, adding that, at the moment, he’s not worried about Cooter’s future.
“I’m trying to find the best head coach, and if the best head coach wants to keep that going, then that’s something we can talk about. But my first focus is the head coach,” Quinn said. “We can worry about the offensive coordinator and the quarterback after that.”
In short, this is Quinn’s team and Quinn’s decision. He will hire who he feels is right.
“The most important relationship in this building is between the head coach and the general manager. We have to be on the same page on what kind of players that the head coach wants, so we can communicate back and forth about guys that fit and don’t fit. Whether that’s current players, free agency or the draft, I think that’s huge.”