As far as press conferences go, the one today introducing Bob Quinn as the Lions new general manager had all the juice of a stale orange.
Quinn, who doesn’t even look 30 years old, yet alone his actual age of 39, didn’t field questions, he swatted them away. He was the Dikembe Mutombo of new hires.
But Quinn, charged with doing something that no Lions football boss has been able to do since Nick Kerbawy in 1957—win an NFL championship—was actually a breath of fresh air as he stood behind the lectern and got to know the Detroit media in crash course style.
Quinn didn’t make promises of grandeur. He didn’t gush over the talent he was inheriting. He didn’t talk about three or five-year plans.
He didn’t serve up fresh corn bread straight from the oven.
Quinn delivered a name/rank/serial number presser, which had more of a feel of a White House press briefing than a football introduction.
But that’s OK.
Think of some of the blowhards who’ve breezed through town.
Remember Dickie Vitale and the pomp and circumstance that was put on for his arrival as Pistons coach at the Silverdome in 1978? Dickie spoke for a full 35 minutes before taking a question—or a breath.
“ReVITALEization baby!” Dickie pronounced as he talked about Pistons Paradise.
Dickie was fired about 19 months later, a move that even Vitale himself admits was best for his health, not to mention that of the Pistons franchise.
Others—mainly coaches—have been introduced to the Detroit press and fan base over the years and have spoken so glowingly of their new bosses and waxed so excitedly about their inherited rosters, you half expected their teams to print playoff tickets as soon as the microphones and cameras were turned off.
But not Bob Quinn.
Quinn has worked in the New England Patriots system since 2000, and that culture clearly has rubbed off on him.
Name. Rank. Serial number.
The media tried to nail Quinn down on several topics, and each time it was like trying to catch a butterfly barehanded.
Almost every Quinn answer included the word “timetable,” which was usually preceded by “no.”
The future of coach Jim Caldwell?
The possibility of talking current Patriots people into coming to Detroit?
Any plans for face-to-face discussions with Matthew Stafford and the maybe-retiring Calvin Johnson?
You guessed it.
“I just met Coach Caldwell today,” Quinn said about evaluating his inherited coach’s future with the Lions.
Quinn didn’t elaborate much on any answer. The media couldn’t even get the new GM to commit to a style of football that he prefers.
“I’m not a coach,” Quinn said.
Quinn didn’t elaborate much. If someone would have asked him what he ate for breakfast, he would have said, “Food.”
When the 20-minute sparring was over, we didn’t know much more about Bob Quinn’s plans for the Lions than we knew before he was introduced by president Rod Wood.
But we do know this.
Quinn is clearly more about substance than style. And that by itself ought to encourage Lions fans.
He did have some kind words for owner Martha Ford and for his family—and for the Patriots organization. He thanked so many Krafts, he made the family sound like the Brady Bunch.
So it’s obviously not about winning the press conference. It’s about winning football games.
I admit to having fallen prey to some of the blowhards.
I watched Matt Millen’s first presser as Lions president back in 2001 and I was so fired up, I was ready to throw on some pads. And the only football I’d ever played in my life was of the flag variety.
I thought Rod Marinelli’s militaristic approach was what the Lions needed in 2006.
I’m not afraid or ashamed to admit this, because I know I’m not alone.
If press conferences were Super Bowls, the Lions would be the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Quinn said precious little at today’s introduction. By the end of the session, he almost seemed to enjoy his rope-a-dope with the media. There was a tiny twinkle in his eye.
But what do you expect from a man who’s watched Bill Belichick talk to the press for 16 years?
Quinn clearly doesn’t care about making a good first impression with the fans and the media. He’s smart enough to know that he’ll be judged on what the Lions do on fall Sundays, not on January Mondays.
Besides, the only first impression that matters is the one he made on special adviser Ernie Accorsi and on Wood and Mrs. Ford and her family.
Who cares if you win the press conference, as long as you win the interview?
Next is to win on the field.
Bob Quinn’s charge is simple: to somehow, by hook or by crook, build a pro football team that will, someday, play in and win a Super Bowl.
The Lions haven’t played in an NFL Championship game in almost 60 years.
Quinn’s mission is either a ridiculous dream or merely unrealized because the Lions never had the right man in place.
If you think it’s the former, consider that the lineage Quinn is following is Russ Thomas, Chuck Schmidt, Matt Millen and Marty Mayhew.
Not exactly Murderer’s Row.
More like a group of undertakers, because they’ve all taken their turns burying the franchise.
Bob Quinn’s name is Bob Quinn. And he’s the general manager of the Detroit Lions.
You want to know more?