The New Detroit Lions Way

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The Detroit Lions way with new general manager Brad Holmes and new head coach Dan Campbell is eerily similar to the Baltimore Ravens way that’s had decades of success.


The Detroit Lions under Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia were focused on emulating one way of doing things. Both Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia came from the New England Patriots, who had only had one coach and general manager their entire tenures with the team. They had little experience outside the Bill Belichick system. Both spent almost all of their time in pro football serving under Belichick himself.

The Detroit Lions went the opposite direction this time around. Instead of hiring a package deal, or a group that had ties and communication already established in the past, they are hiring two of the best candidates for their respective jobs in Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes.

The Lions stayed away from those who spent their entire careers serving the same, single boss. They stayed away from people who know only a single way of doing things. They are going out of their way to hire people who bring a wide variety of experiences, not necessarily experience, but experiences, to Detroit.

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Parallels to the Baltimore Ravens

The Detroit Lions are not following the Los Angeles Rams way. Brad Holmes spent his entire career with the Rams, but he has served under four different general managers and five different head coaches. He has a vast array of experiences evaluating players for different systems. Holmes has had to change his process some to fit what his general managers want and need as well as his coaches. He has worked with many different people over the years and succeeded and thrived under all of them. He can relate to people of all backgrounds and has earned the respect of many around the league. The league’s most respected general manager across the league at the time he retired? The Baltimore Ravens’ legend and hall of famer Ozzie Newsome.

The Detroit Lions are also not following the New Orleans Saints way. Dan Campbell has spent time with several teams before New Orleans, including his time with the Miami Dolphins as their interim head coach. He is not locked into the Saints’ way of doing things. Campbell has not been there for his entire career. He has spent time outside the Saints system. Campbell can bring part of what makes the Saints successful and their history of stability, game planning, culture, and character inside the locker room. Dan Campbell resembles a coach who had never spent time as an offensive or defensive-minded coach prior to his time becoming a head coach: the Ravens’ head coach and Super Bowl Champion, John Harbaugh.

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What Makes the Ravens Way Successful

The Baltimore Ravens are a combination of everything I know and love about football. However, what they do that is most impressive is blend a combination of old school approaches with modern, new, and evolving information to maximize their organization and make them the best team they can be.

Ozzie Newsome has direct ties to Bill Belichick and has experience working with Belichick when they both were in Cleveland together on the Browns staff from 1991 to 1995. Newsome had spent his entire time as an executive after his playing career evaluating players for the Bill Belichick system in Cleveland prior to becoming the Ravens’ general manager and was familiar with the Belichick way of doing things. However, unlike Bob Quinn, Ozzie Newsome strayed away from the Belichick principles with the Ravens and did not hire a Belichick disciple as his head coach in Baltimore.

Instead of hiring someone he knew and was good friends with and came from the same system he worked in, in 2008 when he first got the chance to hire a new head coach following the departure of former head coach Brian Billick, Ozzie Newsome hired John Harbaugh, an Andy Reid disciple as his head coach. Not only was Harbaugh not from the same system, but he had never been a head coach before, and had never served as an offensive or defensive coordinator. He hired Harbaugh because he was the best candidate for the job and would bring a unique perspective that was different than the way Newsome was familiar with in Baltimore. Harbaugh’s experiences and philosophies were not the same things that Newsome was previously scouting for in Cleveland when he evaluated for the Belichick system.

The Ravens way works because they are always challenging each other, pushing each other forward, and meshing together two different systems into one harmonious way of doing things. They aren’t trying to replicate any particular system, or any particular way, or any particular team. What makes them so successful is that they have trust in each other, trust in the process, and trust in their ability to evaluate talent in the front office and coach talent on the field.

Now, with Ozzie Newsome a senior advisor, and Eric DeCosta in the general manager role, the Ravens are continuing to move forward and innovate, pushing the boundaries of the sport forward and creating positive changes that give their team an edge over others. Their approach to analytics, their forward-thinking approach to evaluation, their ability to adapt and change because they are not stuck to any particular system, their flexibility and versatility to do what is best for their team and the players they have is what makes Baltimore successful. Their willingness to appreciate, respect, and follow different processes than the ones they come from, to collaborate and maximize what is best for their organization, makes them successful. Their ability to compromise, disagree with each other, and push everyone in the organization to do their part to be the best collective team together for their organization is why they are successful.

The Ravens do not operate like the Belichick type of team you expect given Ozzie Newsome’s background in scouting for that system in Cleveland. They do not operate like the Andy Reid type of team you expect given John Harbaugh’s background as an Andy Reid disciple before he got hired by Newsome. They operate with their own beliefs, their own ideals, their own philosophies, their own way of doing things. The Ravens way.

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Detroit Is Next

Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell do not overlap, and they come from differing philosophies. The Rams and Saints are both successful organizations, as both made it to the second round of the playoffs this year, but they do not exactly share common philosophies. The Rams under Sean McVay and the Saints under Sean Payton are both great teams with a lot of success, but neither has any direct ties to the other. Now, in Detroit, they will merge, and fuse two good processes together to maximize what is best for the Detroit Lions.

The Lions are taking a chance. This is a risk. This is a fusion that has never been done before, and neither Holmes nor Campbell has a full season of experience in their current roles. What they do have though, is the character, respect, passion, and belief that they can fix the Detroit Lions and build this team into a contender, and eventually a champion.

If the Detroit Lions fan base can sense that passion, that energy, that positivity, and hope Holmes and Campbell provide; and give them a chance and the time needed to build their vision, mesh their philosophies and systems and create a team together in their mutual vision together as one, the Detroit Lions will be successful in the same way the Baltimore Ravens have been, which resulted in a Super Bowl championship.

Thanks for reading! Hopefully, you learned a thing or two along the way. Don’t forget to follow @C_Robbins_ on Twitter, and leave me your thoughts on the Detroit Lions Subreddit! Check out some of Chris’s other articles for the Detroit Lions Podcast here.

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