Detroit Lions hire Brad Holmes as GM: 'I just really think I can make a difference'

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
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Brad Holmes had just finished his second interview with the Detroit Lions on Wednesday when he called his mother, Joan, and greeted her with a routine, "Hey, what's up?"

Anxiously awaiting word on how her only son's second interview with the Lions went, Joan retreated immediately to the quiet of her home office and moments later was sobbing so uncontrollably that her boyfriend came to check on her, worried something was wrong.

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"I said, ‘Hey, how did everything go?’" Joan Holmes said. "And (Brad) says, 'They offered me the job.' And I just started crying. And so my friend came over, thought I got bad news and he was like, 'Are you OK? Are you OK?' and I said, 'Oh my God, I don’t even believe this true.'"

Brad Holmes ponders the draft board during Day 2 of the 2019 NFL draft in Agoura Hills, California, on Friday, April 26, 2019.

The Lions made Holmes' hiring official Thursday, signing the former Los Angeles Rams director of college scouting to a five-year contract to be their next general manager.

Holmes was one of 12 candidates to interview for the job, and emerged as the favorite after impressing the Lions' decision-making team of owner Sheila Ford Hamp, president Rod Wood and adviser Chris Spielman with his smarts and charisma in a Zoom meeting last week.

"Throughout our search for a new general manager, Brad was someone who stood out immediately," Wood said in a statement released by the team. "His abilities as a critical thinker, along with his extensive experience implementing technology and analytics into his approach to scouting, were among the many decisive qualities Brad displayed in our time getting to know him during the interview process. We look forward to him helping lead our organization as we take the next steps as a team."

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Holmes, 41, grew up in a large football family.

His father, Mel, was a guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers. His uncle, Luther Bradley, was the Lions' first-round pick in 1977. His cousin, Alex Barron, played six seasons for the St. Louis Rams and Dallas Cowboys. And he played defensive tackle at North Carolina A&T before taking a circuitous route to the front office.

After finishing his playing career, Holmes took a public relations internship with the Atlanta Hawks that he parlayed into a similar job with the Rams. He interned in the Rams personnel department in 2004, and over the past 16 seasons has worked his way up the scouting ladder to run the team's past eight drafts.

From right, Brad Holmes, Luther Bradley, Bradley's daughter, Lutasha, and Bradley's son, Daniel, attend an NFL playoff game in Los Angeles.

Wilbert Montgomery, a former NFL running back and Lions assistant who helped Holmes catch on as a scouting intern, compared Holmes to legendary ex-Baltimore Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome.

Newsome, the NFL's first Black general manager, built the Ravens into two-time Super Bowl champions.

"Ozzie Newsome is a dear friend of mine, a good, good friend of mine," Montgomery said. "Ozzie and I go all the way back to high school and I had the pleasure of working with Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore. I would say right now (Holmes) is very, very much a young Ozzie Newsome at this point in his career."

Holmes wrote scouting reports as an intern that Montgomery said were indistinguishable from those produced by veteran scouts and coaches, and former Rams executive Tony Softli recalled Holmes making an impression with his comprehensive yet digestible presentations as a young combine scout.

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"His reports were on par," Softli said. "I mean, people were coming up to me that were part of the combine for National (Football Scouting service) saying, 'Hey, this guy can write some reports.' I go, 'Yeah, that’s why we hired him.' I mean, he was good. And there’s no doubt he was going to be a college director soon."

Holmes survived two regime changes and a franchise relocation, from St. Louis to L.A., during his time with the Rams, and helped build the team's Super Bowl 53 roster.

With Holmes as college scouting director in 2013-20, the Rams went 64-58 (.524) in the regular season and made three playoff appearances. They play the Green Bay Packers in a divisional playoff game Saturday.

Brad Holmes as Los Angeles Rams director of college scouting.

Holmes had a hand in drafting three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, running back Todd Gurley and quarterback Jared Goff, and more recently has filled one of the NFL's youngest rosters with a slew of mid- and late-round contributors.

The Rams, who have not had a first-round pick since 2016, start three young Day 3 draft picks on defense in Samson Ebukam, Jordan Fuller and Sebastian Joseph.

"We are all excited for this opportunity for Brad," Rams general manager Les Snead said in a statement released by the team. "He has spent his entire career with the Rams and he earned this position with the Lions due to his dedication to being an astute evaluator of football talent, dynamic intelligence, unwavering leadership and humility. All of those qualities will ensure he is set up to be successful in the next chapter of his career."

Holmes, who joins Bob Quinn, Martin Mayhew and Matt Millen as first-time GMs the Lions have hired in the past two decades, is expected to team with Hamp, Wood and Spielman to pick the next Lions coach.

The Lions have announced interviews with six head coaching candidates so far: Darrell Bevell, who finished the 2020 season as interim head coach; ex-Bengals coach Marvin Lewis; Saints assistant head coach Dan Campbell; and coordinators Robert Saleh of the San Francisco 49ers, Eric Bieniemy of the Kansas City Chiefs and Arthur Smith of the Tennessee Titans.

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The Lions are scheduled to meet with a seventh head coaching candidate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, this week, and reportedly have a second interview set with Smith on Friday.

The team also expressed interest in at least one college coach, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, during the search process, but never interviewed Fitzgerald, who is not a candidate for the job.

As part of his final interview Wednesday, Holmes discussed the Lions' final coaching candidates. When he called his mother afterwards to celebrate, he swore her to secrecy about his new job until it was announced.

“He was very emotional," Joan Holmes said. "I don’t know if he cried, but he was very emotional. He said, 'Mom, I just really think I can make a difference.' I just remember him saying that. 'Mom, I just really think I can make a difference.' I said, 'You will.'"

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. 

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