The Detroit Lions have been casting a wide net thus far in their search for new leadership, and several names have already surfaced as it relates to the ongoing search for new blood atop the organization.
After a few weeks, the names range in age, desirability and experience and it’s clear the Lions are doing their diligence on multiple fronts in order to get the hire right this time. That’s the good news, and the better news is more interviews figure to be on the horizon as well.
As for who we think will get a shot to state their case for the job, how should these options be ranked? Here’s a look at how the pecking order should shape up based on what is known so far.
Thomas Dimitroff, Former Falcons General Manager
Dimitroff was only fired a few months back, but the Lions raised some eyebrows when it was revealed he would be a candidate in Detroit. As far as options with youth and upside, Dimitroff has a major advantage for the Lions given he has worked in their organization before as a scout and understands the lay of the land. Dimitroff has also assembled a Super Bowl team as well as a team that won multiple division titles. This might be quick for Dimitroff, but the fire might burn brightly within him to right the wrongs from his Falcons tenure. It will be important to find out what Dimitroff learned from the experience, but the move could help hasten Detroit’s chances of putting a competitive team on the field quickly. For this reason, he could be the best possible option mentioned so far.
Louis Riddick, ESPN Analyst
Riddick comes into the interview chair as a relative outsider given he hasn’t worked in the league since 2013, but the Lions would be hard-pressed to find someone with more of a direct line as it relates to what it takes to build a successful team in 2020 and beyond. Riddick has been following the game intently as a broadcaster and could give the Lions a major shot in the arm in terms of passion and direction. Many will roll their eyes at hiring another broadcaster, but Riddick packs the needed experience with regards to personnel which should make him a finalist in this search when all is said and done. Riddick also seems to know a bit about what plagues the Lions. He figures to be a hot candidate, so it is possible the Lions aren’t the only stop he will make in the process.
Rick Smith, Former Texans EVP and General Manager
Smith will be interviewed by Detroit during the week, and has high level experience the team could crave in their next boss. He also has a solid personnel background with regards to drafting and developing given his work with the Texans in the past. Smith also has some warts on his resume he’ll have to explain, such as the Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage situations. By drafting Deshaun Watson, though, Smith proved he can get it right eventually and has a solid track record of success in building teams. Will that be enough to get him the job, though? He’s a very good candidate and could fit the criteria, but his status as a retread with a questionable history at quarterback moves him back a bit on the list.
Joe Schoen, Bills Assistant General Manager
Detroit cannot yet officially interview folks from playoff organizations like Schoen will be, but some early rumors hint he is going to be considered and on the list. Schoen comes from one of the most successful organizations in the NFL this season and has long been thought to be a man deserving of a gig. As good as this hire could be in the end, right or wrong, Schoen’s lack of experience might hurt him in this particular case, especially going up against names like Dimitroff and Smith.
Scott Pioli, Former Patriots Director Player Personnel, Former Chiefs General Manager, Former Falcons Assistant General Manager
Seemingly from out of left field, the Lions will interview Pioli for the open general manager position. That’s probably a scary thought for many Lions fans given his deep ties to the Patriots’ organization, but Pioli is certainly his own man and has seen mild success as a general manager before. The Lions will need assurances that Pioli has self-scouted all his mistakes and that he is not simply married to the Patriots way of doing things. This doesn’t feel like it’s a hire the Lions can make coming off of Bob Quinn, but Pioli was probably more the brains behind the Patriots than Quinn ever was, so it could be an apples and oranges situation to compare the two. Pioli has also had reasonable success outside New England with a division title and playoff appearance to his credit in Kansas City as well as solid work with the Falcons and Dimitroff which culminated in a Super Bowl appearance.
Lions’ Trio of Candidates
Given the fact outside ideas are needed to help in change, there is probably no feasible way that anyone from this group gets the job, and that’s good news for the team. This isn’t to diminish the work any of these names have done inside the organization, but simply to state the obvious fact that the Lions need a fresh perspective if they want to turn over a new leaf in earnest. Kyle O’Brien, Lance Newmark and Rob Lohman should bring up the bottom of the list as a result.