ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Bob Quinn stood at the podium Monday afternoon, speaking for about 20 minutes while outlining why he decided to fire head coach Jim Caldwell and what he’s looking for in the man to replace him.
Among all of the questions, the Detroit Lions general manager was asked one that is particularly telling around the NFL: How much pressure is there for him to get this right, especially considering if he doesn’t, he might not get an opportunity to make another head-coaching hire.
“I’m under pressure every day in my job,” Quinn said. “That’s what it is.”
Because, as he said, that’s “absolutely” how it goes in the NFL. It’s the way of life for coaches, where in the NFL there is major turnover yearly. And it’s sometimes how it goes for general managers too, especially if they get four or five years in and their plan is not working out.
Well, Quinn is about to embark on Year 3, with his first head-coaching hire and, in the process, he has raised expectations for the franchise. By firing Caldwell -- who himself helped create the championship-level expectations the Lions now have after back-to-back winning seasons -- that puts a larger amount of focus on Quinn.
Whatever happens from here on out, it is on Quinn and on his future. Quinn owned Detroit’s record the past two years -- 18-14, one playoff appearance, one playoff loss -- but that was more on the team’s old coaching staff than on the team the general manager helped mold.
He was, in some ways, still figuring things out. Quinn had a good first year, and he made mistakes, particularly with the run game and defensive line, in his second go-round putting a roster together. But he also believed the roster he handed Caldwell the past two years was better than the 9-7 finishes.
And he’s right. The Lions have more pieces in place now to make a true run at being a contender than at any time since the 1990s, when Detroit had one of the most explosive offenses in the league -- with Barry Sanders, Herman Moore and an offensive line led by Kevin Glover and Lomas Brown -- to go with a defense that featured Chris Spielman, Bennie Blades and Robert Porcher.
Detroit has its quarterback in Matthew Stafford, and Quinn committed heavily to Stafford in August by signing him to the largest contract in NFL history. He has a good group of pass-catchers with Marvin Jones Jr., Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay and Eric Ebron. The Lions have defensive cornerstones in cornerback Darius Slay, safety Glover Quin and linebacker Jarrad Davis.
In other words, the Lions have many of the players needed to be more successful immediately. Much of the rest will be up to Quinn. Can he fix the running game by adding a power running back? Can he give the offensive and defensive lines more depth? Can those defensive linemen create a pass rush that has been lacking since the 2015 season?
It’s part of why Quinn made the move to fire Caldwell -- and why the pressure is on the GM now. He has to pick the guy he believes will rid the Lions of some of their more ignominious shortcomings: One playoff win in the Super Bowl era; no division titles since 1993; no Super Bowl appearances.
Then, after he picks right head coach, he has to make sure the two are in concert with finding the right players to reach those goals. Yes, that’s the job of every general manager and head coach, so that’s not different. But the Lions used to be known for loyalty -- very often to a fault.
Based on the circumstances that led to the hiring of Quinn and the firing of Caldwell, despite the coach's record, those expectations are higher. And now Quinn has to meet them. He has the core of a potential contender. He has the quarterback locked up. He has his front office and scouting staff in place. All that's needed are more strong player personnel decisions -- and the right head coach.
“My expectation is what I said before, to win championships,” Quinn said. “That’s why I was hired and that’s why I’m here. That’s why the new head coach is going to be here, as well.”
If Quinn can’t do it, the next time there's a hiring cycle involving the Lions, his future might be in question, with a chance he could be shown the door.