Published October 5, 2016
Oh, to have the job security of Bob Quinn.
We should all be so lucky.
Say what you will about Lions owner Martha Ford, but no one is more entrenched in their job within the organization right now than Quinn, the boy GM who took the keys to the car last January.
Quinn wasn’t brought in with a “win now or else” mandate. It was understood that the task of bringing the Lions to championship status, if that’s even possible, would be long and drawn out.
Quinn, of course, was hit immediately by the local media with the “What about coach Jim Caldwell?” questions. Understandable, given that existing coaches are typically in tenuous positions when new regimes take over. Caldwell was hired by the deposed tandem of Marty Mayhew and Tom Lewand in January of 2014.
But the problems with the Lions, which are deep-rooted, extend way beyond the head coach. And Bob Quinn, who comes from the perennially successful New England Patriots, knew that from the get go.
Frankly, I think the head coaching situation was the least of Quinn’s concerns when he arrived nine months ago.
To build a winning organization in the NFL—one that is set up for long-term success—you look for long-term solutions.
There’s nothing long-term about a head coach. For every Chuck Noll, Tom Landry or Bill Belichik, I’ll show you dozens—if not hundreds—of examples of men who breeze through town and just as soon as you get on a first name basis with them, they’re kicked to the curb.
Quinn is doing this the right way—so far.
He started by purging the Lions’ scouting and personnel departments, which are long-term solutions. It’s likely that those changes, of which there were several last spring, will be added to after this season.
Quinn has exactly one draft under his belt as Lions GM. He’s only worked with his revamped staffs for four regular season games in 2016.
Fans don’t want to hear this, but a 3-13 or 4-12 type season in 2016 wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world—especially if you’re Bob Quinn.
Not that Quinn doesn’t want to win right now. Of course he does. But in this rebuild, another low finish in the standings, which correlates to a high place in the draft pecking order, would hardly be disastrous.
Quinn inherited Caldwell. That’s true. But the new GM had so many more fish to fry than to make a head coaching change right out of the gate.
Changing the head coach before Quinn got his scouts and personnel folks in place would be doing things, as they say, bass ackwards.
Caldwell became a placeholder on the sidelines as soon as Quinn was hired. Unless the two men got off to a highly contentious start or varied dramatically in football philosophy, Quinn was highly unlikely to change coaches before the 2016 season.
And Caldwell, for his part, no doubt said all the things that his new boss wanted to hear. Who wouldn’t?
But after this season, all bets are off as to Jim Caldwell’s future with the Lions.
Going further, I’d be shocked if Caldwell returned in 2017. Unless the team somehow picked itself up after a gory 1-3 start and made the playoffs.
What are the odds of that?
On the flip, I doubt that Quinn would fire Caldwell mid-season, unless the 1-3 start spiraled totally out of control. Then a firing might be a mercy killing to put the coach out of his misery.
The new guy would be interim and would have zero chance of being retained beyond the end of this season.
For all we know, Quinn has someone in mind to take over as Lions coach in 2017 and beyond. Even if he doesn’t, Caldwell is probably gone. You never know who might be available after the season.
Quinn had a ton of housekeeping to do when he took the Lions GM job. He knew it, his bosses knew it.
Caldwell, truth be told, likely knew it.
Caldwell is already fielding job security questions, and we’re barely into October. He said the usual “I don’t worry about my job” thing, which always amazes me.
How come coaches never worry about their job security?
At least Brad Ausmus with the Tigers has openly said that he’d like to return and that he has, at times, thought about his job security. But Ausmus is an anomaly in that regard.
Maybe football coaches don’t care because they can always find another job—whether as an assistant, a coordinator, or as head coach. And they could do it at the college or professional level.
It’s rather amusing to me to see all the rancor over Caldwell and the cries for his head.
Yes, the 1-3 start hasn’t been pretty. It’s not like the Lions have been playing NFL powers so far.
But no matter how bad it gets, Bob Quinn can bide his time. He’s not going anywhere anytime soon. He won’t have to make any moves out of panic or false urgency.
He won’t have to fire Jim Caldwell to save his own skin—like Maywand did with Jim Schwartz after the 2013 season.
Job security in the NFL is a precious commodity. Some would even say that it’s a myth.
But in Detroit, Bob Quinn has about as much of it as anyone who isn’t the owner could possibly have.
He’s right to use it wisely and to hoard it.
The next coach of the Detroit Lions will be Quinn’s man.
Then and only then will the GM officially be on the clock.