Brad Holmes is not here to tear it down. He's not here to blow it up. Even with the Lions coming off their third straight last place finish in the NFC North, their new general manager doesn't seem inclined to build an entirely new team.
"Please don’t get mad at me if I don’t use the word 'rebuild,' if I just continue to pivot toward retool,'" Holmes said Tuesday during his introductory press conference.
It was a light-hearted remark, delivered with a smile. It was also a potential peak inside Holmes' plan as he takes over an organization that could use a rebuild in the worst way. Not a renovation. A down-to-the-studs rebuild.
It sounds like Holmes would rather repair the Lions on the fly, if such a move is possible. He said he doesn't plan to undertake any sort of 'long-term' overhaul.
"When you get into the offseason every franchise will look at some areas where they might need some, let’s say, retooling, some areas that need to be addressed," said Holmes. "But the ultimate goal is to make sure that the most competitive team is on the field, and that starts right this year in the 2021 season. So not viewing this as, 'This will be long-term, I don’t know how long it’s going to take.' That’s not the approach or the mindset going into it.
"The approach is to make sure we can put the most competitive team possible out there on the field in 2021."
It's not just that the Lions have the fourth most losses in the NFL since 2018. It's that their roster is lacking both talent and depth. Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia left their successors with almost no choice but to start over. And maybe Holmes will reach that conclusion as he continues to evaluate the players at hand. Maybe he already has.
It feels safe to say Holmes won't spend big in free agency, not this year anyway. He has to know the Lions aren't a splash or two away from playoff contention. Moreover, he was clear about his intention to build through the draft. That's his area of expertise after eight years as director of college scouting for the Rams.
"We will be aggressive in all areas of player acquisition, but let’s just be honest: I come from the college draft background and I look forward to building this team through the draft," he said.
The question is whether Holmes will lay his own foundation, or try to build on one that is -- or isn't -- already in place. Again, the latter feels more likely. Even on defense, where the Lions just gave up the most points and the most yards in franchise history, Holmes said he sees some 'building blocks.'
"I think there are some good, young, talented pieces that are still in their phase of developing. And I do think there are some veterans that have brought good production to the table," he said. "So definitely going to retool in some areas, but there are some building blocks there."
Hovering over everything is the future of Matthew Stafford. If it's a rebuild Holmes settles on, the quarterback is likely gone. At the very least, Stafford's successor will have to arrive via the draft. If Holmes would rather patch some holes and try to contend next season, Stafford is his best shot. The GM didn't lean in either direction when the topic was broached on Tuesday.
Holmes said his first order of business will be getting aligned with the new head coach -- that is, Dan Campbell -- as soon as he arrives.
"Definitely want to make sure we meet and get on the same page and be aligned. The evaluation of the total roster is extremely important, so looking forward to making sure that myself and the head coach take a deep dive into the evaluation of the roster and make sure we’re on the same page as we approach free agency and the draft," Holmes said.
Holmes is coming from a team that has the fourth most wins in the NFL since 2018. He's not used to putting the present behind the future. At the same time, he was appointed to his prior position with the Rams amid a stretch of 10 straight losing seasons. He's seen a few rebuilds before. He's seen most of them fail. The Rams' most recent one worked thanks in large part to Holmes' contributions in the draft.
However he proceeds in Detroit, Holmes has a plan. He believes in it strongly. Time will tell whether we should, too.
"There’s really not one specific item or area that has to be changed right now," he said. "I just have a lot of confidence in the plan and the process that we’ll have in place. If we stay disciplined in our approach to that process, we should get the results we desire."