Inside the NFL: The Leadership Team Behind the Lions' Coaching Search

Everett CookMeet the Team
Lions

The Detroit Lions play against the Jacksonville Jaguars in October 2020. Editorial Credit: davrilg, Shutterstock.

On Thanksgiving afternoon last week, the Detroit Lions fell to 4-7 after getting walloped by the Houston Texans, 41-25, on national TV. The team gave up more than 170 receiving yards to wide receiver Will Fuller and the game was never really in question for Houston.

By Saturday, the Lions announced that they had fired both head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn.

Patricia, the former New England Patriots’ defensive coordinator, was hired in 2018 and compiled a 13-29-1 record in his less than three seasons in Detroit. Quinn was also poached from New England, as he ran Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick’s pro scouting department for four seasons before the Lions made him one of the youngest general managers in the league when they hired him at age 39 in 2016.

Now, both are gone, and the Lions have some critical decisions to make in replacing them. Who will be involved in that process?

The Detroit Lions's org chart on The Org

It all starts at the top, where Detroit was once a model for ownership stability. William Clay Ford, the grandson of Henry Ford, bought the team in 1964 and became one of the longest-tenured owners in professional sports, running the Lions until his death in March 2014.

His wife, Martha Ford Morse, then became Owner and Chairman. Despite not having much hands-on football experience herself, the next year Martha hired Rod Wood, an investment banker with personal ties to the family who had never worked in sports, as President & CEO.

Wood still oversees all football and business operations in Detroit, though Martha stepped down to become Chairman Emeritus in June of this year to allow her daughter, Sheila Ford Hamp, to become Principal Owner and Chairman.

The organization now has a chance to start fresh in 2021 with everyone in the front office and coaching staff on the same page.

Generally speaking, NFL organizations in transition will try and first hire a general manager, then let that hire handle the coaching search. So the Lions’ front office will likely make that decision before looking for a new head coach. Until then, interim head coach Darrell Bevell, who won a Super Bowl as the offensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks in 2013, will coach the team through the end of the year.

Though Detroit will have to do a national search, there are a few internal candidates who could be promoted to general manager, including:

  • Mike Disner, who joined the Lions last year as its VP of Football Administration, is well-regarded around the league for his prowess in handling contracts and cap-related duties.
  • Kyle O’Brien has been the Lions VP of Player Personnel for five seasons, though he does have close ties to Quinn and New England and the organization might be looking for a different profile this time around.
  • Director of Player Personnel Lance Newmark has spent 23 years in Detroit’s player personnel department. He started at the bottom as a staff assistant and has risen through the scouting and personnel ranks, meaning he likely has a lot of internal trust and support.
  • A wild card candidate could be Senior Personnel Executive Jimmy Raye III, a wide receiver for three different teams in the 1990s who has then worked in the front office of five different organizations over the course of his almost 30-year NFL career. He’s been in Detroit since 2018 and has a lot of friends around the league.

The Lions have not won a playoff game since 1991 and have never won a Super Bowl. So for whoever is hired to lead the team next year, the only place to go is up.

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