Published Dec. 23, 2018
It’s time for Bob Quinn to come out of hiding.
Quinn, the Lions general manager, is the Howard Hughes of sports executives in Detroit.
Quinn sightings are rare. He’s like the notoriously reclusive billionaire Hughes in the sense that we all know that he exists, but we’re not sure what he’s up to, because nobody ever interacts with him.
When the Lions traded for run-stuffing defensive lineman Damon “Snacks” Harrison in October, Quinn was nowhere to be found for some words about the deal, which was widely praised by NFL pundits. Compare that to one week later, when Quinn dealt receiver Golden Tate to Philadelphia.
Eagles GM Howie Roseman held a presser in which he gushed over Tate and spoke giddily about the trade. Quinn, as usual, was in bunker mode.
Other Detroit GMs don’t shun the media
Other front office types in our town don’t need skip tracers in order to be found.
Al Avila of the Tigers and Kenny Holland of the Red Wings are hardly shy with the media. Both men, whether you agree with their philosophies or not, get high marks for never ducking the tough questions.
Quinn doesn’t have to be Mr. Personality, but he needs to be Mr. I’m Still Alive and Kicking.
Quinn owns this mess with the Lions. The curtain is about to fall on the GM’s third season, and this by far is the most disappointing campaign in his tenure. The Lions, after another uninspiring performance against the Vikings on Sunday, are 5-10. This, after two straight 9-7 seasons that got coach Jim Caldwell the ziggy.
Yet Quinn has been mum all season. He’s let coach Matt Patricia, his buddy, take all the heat and left Patricia to explain away personnel moves.
I’m sure we’ll hear from Quinn as he delivers his annual postmortem shortly after the 2018 season mercifully comes to a close. But that’s not good enough. Not nearly good enough.
Name, rank, serial number was good—back then
When Quinn was introduced as Lions GM in January 2016, I admired his no-nonsense, almost purposefully bland presser. After all, the Lions have always been good at winning at the podium but losing on the gridiron.
But now, some three years later, Quinn’s lockjaw is doing a disservice to the fan base, no matter how masochistic you figure them to be.
About one year ago, Quinn grimly stepped in front of the press on New Year’s Day and announced the canning of Caldwell, a fine man. It was the most I’d heard Quinn speak in his time as Lions GM.
The gist of the message was that Bob Quinn felt that the Lions, at 9-7, woefully underachieved, given the talent that Quinn himself had accumulated.
It can’t be me, Quinn essentially said on 1/1/18, because look at all this talent that we have. It must be the coach.
Now what does Quinn say?
The trouble with hiring pals is that the expectations are typically higher. When Quinn tabbed the erstwhile defensive coordinator of the Patriots to lead the Lions on the sidelines, the GM put all his chips into Patricia’s bushy beard.
Quinn may have gained a certain comfort level by hiring Patricia, but he also sacrificed some goodwill from the fans.
Patricia was hired to elevate the Lions beyond that which Caldwell, 36-28 and 0-2 in the playoffs in four seasons, was able to attain in Detroit.
But here the Lions sit, 5-10 with a likely loss in Green Bay before them next Sunday. And rumblings that the players haven’t bought in to Matty Patty.
With Patricia’s very uneven rookie season, which got off to an ominous start at home against the Jets, and Quinn’s incomplete grade as GM, it’s looking more and more that the so-called “Patriots way” starts and ends with coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady.
Patricia is hardly the first Belichick disciple to fall flat on his face as a head coach.
Hiring friends fraught with danger
He’s had his hits and misses in the draft and in free agency, as all GMs do. But Quinn now has some explaining to do. He hired his old pal as coach and it’s looking like his biggest miss of all.
It’s time for Quinn to stop letting Patricia bear the brunt of this nightmare season.
What do I want Quinn to say? Beyond the perfunctory “It’s on me” mea culpa that we’re likely to hear?
Quinn needs to be real. He needs to put his friend Patricia on notice. The 2018 debacle is unacceptable, Quinn should say.
“I hired Matt Patricia to build on what Coach Caldwell started in Detroit and we have clearly taken a step backward,” I want to quote Quinn as saying. “And this won’t be tolerated for another season.”
Quinn—or Patricia—will likely fire beleaguered offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter as soon as the season ends. Cooter, who’s been calling games lately as if he wants to be fired, will be the first piece of raw meat tossed to the wolves.
But the cashiering of Cooter, no matter how justified it is deemed to be by the fan base, shouldn’t buy Patricia more than the time it takes for Jim Bob to clean out his locker.
Yes, Patricia inherited Cooter. That’s true. But Matty Patty could have hired his own guy, it is presumed.
QB Matthew Stafford’s stunning regression with Patricia as his head coach is conspicuous.
But this is more about Bob Quinn, for now.
How dare Quinn sit in his bunker and let this monstrosity of a season play out with nary a peep out of him. How dare he let Patricia answer personnel questions.
It’s one thing to be reclusive and aloof when you’re winning. When you’re losing? Bob Quinn hasn’t earned that right. He hasn’t won anything as a GM.
Quinn doesn’t have the pedigree to go all Howard Hughes on the Lions fans and media.
On Jan. 1, 2018, Bob Quinn told us that 9-7 wasn’t good enough anymore. That was admirable. The Lions’ standards had been lowered to almost that of a limbo stick. So Quinn hired an old friend to be coach. Now look at what has happened.
What does Quinn say on Jan. 1, 2019?
The GM has painted himself into a corner. We’ll see if he has the deftness to get himself out, clean.
Talk to us, Bob. This is on you. You don’t have Jim Caldwell to kick around anymore.