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Detroit Lions hire Chris Spielman to help with GM and coach searches

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To get the Detroit Lions where they want to go, the franchise is reaching back to its past.

Amid concerns that the leadership did not have anyone with a football background to help the team find a new coach and general manager, Lions announced Tuesday that Chris Spielman is hiring as special full-time assistant to owner Sheila Ford Hamp and team president Rod Wood.

“I’ve been approached about different opportunities in football over the years,” said Spielman. “I really think this is the absolutely right time to get involved. I am very excited. I can’t tell you how excited I am about the opportunity. The lions are part of my identity; Always have been, always will be. “

Spielman was designed by the Ohio state Lions in 1988 and spent his first eight seasons with the organization. During this time he was awarded the All-Pro three times. He remains the franchise’s leading tackler.

“Chris Spielman has been a great ambassador for the Detroit Lions since the day he first dressed in uniform as a rookie in 1988,” said Ford Hamp in a statement. “He has a great passion for people and the game of football and we are delighted to have him on board to lead our team. This position is a full-time position for Chris that allows him to work across departments in different areas. ” Football and business pages of our organization. “

After retiring from the NFL in 1999, Spielman switched to a broadcasting career, working for both ESPN and Fox Sports. He has been the color commentator for Fox NFL programs since 2016, while also playing the same role on Detroit’s preseason games for the past seven years.

He will leave that behind for this new position, which will continue after the positions of general manager and coach have been filled, although the parameters of his role have not yet been defined, according to Wood.

“When all of this is done, I think of myself as a servant,” said Spielman. “Whatever needs to be done and however I can help the team in any way, that is my job and I am only there to serve. That is my goal and that is what I intend to do. “

Since his assumption as Lions President and CEO in 2015, Wood has got to know Spielman well and has stated that he long envisioned a role in the organization for the former linebacker, but only after the decision to fire general manager Bob Quinn and trainer Matt Patricia that the ball got rolling when he forged an official relationship.

Shortly after the shooting, Wood reached out to Spielman, which was part of a general emotional process. Shortly thereafter, Ford Hamp got involved in the calls and she was the one who made the final pitch that got Spielman to take the plunge.

“My last conversation with Sheila exaggerated it for me,” he said. “I woke up the next day knowing that life changes within 24 hours after you finished the conversation with her. I can’t tell you how excited she is and how much she wants the Lions to represent the city of Detroit, win lots of games, and be something everyone can be proud of.

“She exaggerated me when I decided whether or not to do this. She is fabulous. Good leader. She is a leader to me. I said “let’s go!” I felt like I spoke to a head coach before a game. “

And while Tuesday’s conversation was kept away from certain candidates for the team’s two openings, Spielman explained his overall vision of what success would look like, with an emphasis on top-down communication, culture and unity.

This vision was developed from a life in football. Spielman, the son of a high school coach, starred at all levels before switching to the radio, which gave him access to all of the league’s coaches and general managers. This group includes his brother Rick Spielman, the general manager of the Vikings.

And over the years, Chris has kept a detailed record of those conversations as he formulates his opinion on who is successful in the NFL and why.

“I was blessed with insight and the insight to know that I can always learn,” said Spielman. “I can always grow. I can always develop myself further. There are so many smart guys out there and when they post information – whether I’m okay with it or not – I write it down because I want to think about it.

“Some of the people I have spoken to over the years and recently are very bright people who have had a lot of success. It doesn’t mean I agree with everything they say, but they give me thoughts to ponder and ideas to ponder. To me, you only grow when you are outside of your comfort zone and challenged that way. You have insight and humility to know that you do not have all the answers. “

In addition to hiring Spielman, Lions also announced that Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation executive director Rod Graves, vice president of business development for Rock Ventures and former Michigan state sports director Mark Hollis, and the Lions Hall of Fame Barry Return Sanders as a consultant to the team is looking for a GM and trainer.

“Everyone brings different things to the table, starting with Rod Graves, the leader of the Fritz Pollard Alliance,” said Wood. “I’ve had several conversations with Rod. He shared with me the candidates the Alliance is working with who are minority coaches and potential GMs trying to get their names in front of teams. He helped me a lot in analyzing these candidates and giving me feedback. So we will continue to speak to him regularly.

“Mark Hollis has conducted a number of coaching searches in his Michigan state sports director responsibilities and was keen to provide guidance on the process of how it works and what results he has found to be successful. And Barry is more like Chris, a lion, in a way – someone who understands our culture, the Ford family. Hopefully we can keep bouncing ideas off of him to find someone who suits us and is obviously one of the, if not the greatest players in franchise history. Whenever I can have Barry with me, it’s a good thing. “

So far, Lions have interviewed three in-house candidates for the position of general manager of the franchise. The team is not expected to hire replacements for Quinn and Patricia until mid-January.

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Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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