Published Dec. 30, 2017

It’s time for Bob Quinn to be an NFL general manager now.

Quinn is about to finish his second full season as the Lions’ front office guru and finally he hits his first fork in the road.

Black Monday is likely to strike the Lions’ offices, though it may wait until Tuesday because of the impending holiday.

Black Monday, in the NFL, means something entirely different than the Monday after Thanksgiving, which is also called Black Monday for it being the unofficial start to the holiday online shopping season.

Although in the NFL, Black Monday does mean shopping, in a way. It’s when teams give the ziggy to their head coach and become in the market for a new one.

Quinn, the Lions GM, is going to be a shopper soon. A shopper of coaches.

Quinn finally gets to be a GM in Detroit. Oh, he’s drafted and he’s signed free agents and he’s built a scouting staff. That’s all fine and dandy.

But it won’t mean a hill of beans compared to his next decision.

Matt Millen’s Road to Perdition

You’re not a true GM in any pro sport until you get to hire a coach or a manager. Those are decisions that you must own, with no excuses. Those are potentially career-defining decisions.

With drafts and free agents, there are variables that a GM often can’t control: injuries, unforeseen bad years, etc. But a coach has been vetted. He’s been interviewed, along with many other candidates. Often he’s interviewed twice, sometimes more.

The GM can’t say that he didn’t see failure coming. And even if he did, it doesn’t matter, because the GM owns the decision.

The Road to Football Perdition that was the Lions front office career of Matt Millen began with about as bad of a coaching hire as you’ll ever see in the history of the NFL.

Millen, a rookie executive in early-2001, did his interviewing and his vetting and decided to go with the “blind leading the blind” method.

Rookie executive hires rookie head coach—Marty Mornhinweg.

Millen became so enamored with Mornhinweg, who at the time was the 38-year-old offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers, that Marty wasn’t even allowed to make his flight to Cleveland, where the Browns planned to interrogate him for their HC opening.

I said at the time that if the front office neophyte Millen was going to hire someone like Mornhinweg, then Matt would have been better off to just retain Gary Moeller, who did an admirable job taking over for the quitter, Bobby Ross.

Better yet, Millen should have hired a seasoned head coach to help ease his own burden while he got comfortable in his own skin as an NFL executive.

But Millen decided that to have two men learning on the job at the same time in the two most important jobs in the franchise, was the way to go. Mornhinweg went 5-27 in two years as Lions head coach.

Water under the bridge, I know.

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Quinn’s legacy starts now

Bob Quinn is no Matt Millen. Not from what I can tell. Whether Quinn is the next Ron Wolf or George Halas or George Young remains to be seen. But I don’t look at Quinn and see a goofball.

Which makes this upcoming coaching hire—and don’t worry, pessimistic Lions fans, it’s coming—so important to Quinn’s Lions Legacy.

Jim Caldwell will be let go shortly after tomorrow’s season finale against the Packers in Detroit. Black Monday returns to Detroit after a four-year hiatus. Book it.

Then, and only then, will Bob Quinn truly become an NFL general manager.

After the photographers snap their pics of the new Lions coach, holding the silver helmet and smiling with Quinn and team president Rod Wood, and after the introductory presser—whether it features Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael or Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia (the two best candidates)—Quinn will have been indoctrinated into life as an NFL executive.

The new Lions head coach will be Quinn’s guy—unlike the current coach. You’re not a GM when you inherit a coach. At that point, you’re still trying to reach puberty.

For all we know, Quinn has already made back channel outreaches to candidates. You can’t tell me that he hasn’t asked old co-worker Patricia if he has a move to southeast Michigan in him.

This is Quinn’s moment. Drafts are nice. They move the meter and get the fans excited every spring. The NFL loves drafts. It keeps them above the fold in the off-season.

But this is Bob Quinn’s moment, solely. Draft choices are the culmination of tireless hours of work put in by scouts, player personnel people and the like. Everyone reports up to the GM. Same with free agent decisions.

Not so when a GM hires a coach.

Quinn will be, within the next few weeks, handing a four or five-year contract to a man in whom he is entrusting the immediate future of the Detroit Lions. The decision will be his. He won’t be consulting with scouts or player personnel people. If he does, it will be cursory in nature.

Young Bobby Quinn is about to become a GM in the NFL. For reals.