Holmes, though, made no definitive declaration on the future of Stafford, who has two years left on his contract. Owner Sheila Ford Hamp said that would be up to Holmes and their yet-to-be-named head coach.
“What you really appreciate is that the talent was easy to see, but you really appreciate how his intangibles show on film,” the 41-year-old Holmes said of Stafford. “How urgent he plays, how competitive he is, the toughness that he shows. But it is my job to evaluate the entire roster and through that process I have not had any discussions with Matt or any players for that matter.
“So you know, I just want to be fair into the process to make sure we evaluate that thoroughly but obviously, Matt, very good football player.”
Much of Holmes’ first news conference centered on how he wants to “retool” a Lions roster that finished last in the NFC North in each of the last three seasons. Everything he is attempting to bring in will be part of a larger process he envisions, something he saw work well during his almost two decades with the Rams as he worked his way up from public relations intern to the director of college scouting under Les Snead.
Holmes said the first thing he wants to do is meet with and go through the entire roster after the team hires a new head coach, which is expected to be New Orleans Saints assistant head coach Dan Campbell, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Team president Rod Wood said a collaboration of Holmes and the new head coach will have say over 53-man roster decisions. Holmes, the new head coach and vice president of football administration Mike Disner, who will have added responsibilities within the organization, will all report to Wood and Hamp.
Hamp said since they ran the head coach and general manager searches simultaneously, they asked general manager candidates about who they had in mind as head coaches. And they’d ask coaching candidates similar questions about general managers. Often, Hamp said, the lists had common names.
Hamp did say that Holmes talked with some of their remaining candidates after he was hired.
It was during those interviews where Holmes “blew away the competition,” Wood said. Hamp said she believes, particularly with analytics and technology, what Holmes will bring is “definitely different than what we’ve been doing here.”
Holmes didn’t want to delve into specifics, but all of this is the start of what Holmes is describing as his process.
“I would say let’s all trust the process that is going to be in place,” Holmes said. “It is going to be a very sound process. It will be a very thorough and diligent process and we’re going to, like I said earlier, we’re going to surrender those results to the process. I’ve always been one that likes to go through the process and tries to delay my intuition towards the end. “So if we keep the process sound and then we make the right intuitive decisions going forward, I believe the Lions fan base are going to be very, very happy with the results that they see.”
Holmes does not see his process being a massive rebuild. He said his plan is to field a competitive team in 2021, acknowledging there were areas, specifically defensively, where the Lions were “definitely going to retool,” but he did not offer specifics.
But he did say he saw building blocks on a defense that allowed the most points and yards in franchise history last season under head coach Matt Patricia and defensive coordinator Cory Undlin.
Detroit does have Jeff Okudah, last year’s No. 3 overall pick, as well as cornerback Amani Oruwariye, safety Tracy Walker, defensive end Trey Flowers and linebacker Jamie Collins as starters who are expected to return next season.
“The ultimate goal is to make sure the most competitive team is on the field and that starts right now, this year, entering the 2021 season,” Holmes said. “So not viewing this as this will be a long-term, I don’t know how long this is going to take. That is not the approach.
“That’s not the mindset going into it. The approach is to make sure that we can put the most competitive team possible out on the field in 2021.”