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Deciphering Lions GM Bob Quinn's plan for hiring a new head coach

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Lions fire head coach Jim Caldwell (1:05)

Adam Schefter weighs in on Detroit GM Bob Quinn's decision to fire head coach Jim Caldwell. (1:05)

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Bob Quinn spent the first few minutes Monday afternoon praising Jim Caldwell, thanking him for the work he had done and what he taught Quinn during his first two years as the Detroit Lions' general manager.

Then he explained that the Lions needed to be better than what they were under Caldwell. It’s why he decided to fire Caldwell late Sunday night, officially ending Caldwell's tenure Monday morning.

As Quinn embarks on the first coaching search of his professional career -- remember, he came from the New England Patriots, who haven't had a coaching search since Quinn was a graduate student at the University of Connecticut -- he has an idea of what he wants to do. He just has never done it or been around it before.

He has watched friends go through the process, both as coaches and executives. He went through it briefly in 2016 when the Lions hired him to run their football operations. So he has ideas to lean on.

“Just my experiences working with different coaches through my career,” Quinn said. “Seeing friends go through the process. I know a lot of coaches at different teams. I know people who have gone through searches at the executive level, colleagues who I’ve worked with who are at other teams now.

“So I have a lot of people I can lean on, a lot of people I can talk to, a lot of research that still needs to be done. But ultimately we have a good plan and we’re looking forward to following through on it.”

Quinn didn’t entirely lay out his plan publicly Monday when he spoke with the media for about 20 minutes, but he offered clues. First, it’ll be more transparent than Detroit’s last coaching search, when Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand hired Caldwell. Quinn said they will announce the completion of interviews with candidates, which should give the public an honest idea of who Detroit is looking at.

He is also taking clear control of this process. Players won’t have input in the search -- another difference from the last coaching search, when quarterback Matthew Stafford met with some candidates. Ownership also won’t be in on interviews, only Quinn and team president Rod Wood. They will, however, be consulted daily.

He does not have a preference of an offensive or defensive coach, although the names that have surfaced thus far as potential candidates have mostly been defensive coordinators, including New England’s Matt Patricia, the Carolina Panthers’s Steve Wilks and the Lions’ defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin.

Previous head-coaching experience doesn’t matter and is not a prerequisite, although he also said “that would probably help.” Having previous familiarity with a coach -- something he would have with Patricia, Austin, New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Houston Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel -- is also something Quinn said “could factor in.”

But it won’t be something the coach has to have.

“That’s why the interview process is what it is,” Quinn said. “You spend time with people you may not know and you get to know them and maybe they change your opinion on them one way or the other. It’s a factor.”

Just not a major one.

The scheme the new head coach wants to run isn’t a major factor, either. Quinn said he would not dictate a 4-3 or 3-4 defense, and he believes he has a quarterback in Stafford who can run any scheme. The new coach will also have full autonomy over the hiring of his staff.

More important to Quinn is flexibility. It is one of the traits he is looking for when he starts interviewing candidates.

“Leadership, situational football, willingness to adjust and adapt to scheme and to players,” Quinn said. “Really, just someone that can lead this team with the players we have and the players that we will acquire and put them in the best position to win.

“Being a head coach in the National Football League is not an easy job, so they come in all shapes and sizes -- offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators, special-teams coaches -- so it’ll be something I’m going to spend a lot of time researching and started to do [Monday] morning, and we’ll continue down that road.”

Quinn said he was open to interviewing college coaches, as well, something that could broaden the scope of a search. While Quinn said he would be thorough and interview multiple candidates, he does have a short list of sorts that he is working with, one he created before he even took the Detroit job in January 2016, and a group of candidates he said has evolved each season.

He declined to discuss specific candidates, but he clearly has an idea of what he’s looking for.

There’s one other thing, too. He wants his coach to have opinions, potentially strong ones. He wants his coach to be able to voice what he’s looking for so that way Quinn can go out and find it. Because Quinn thinks he has roster that’s close to competing for championships.

But he needs to know what his new hire needs to succeed.

“The most important relationship in this building is between the head coach and the general manager,” Quinn said. “So we have to be on the same page of what kind of players that the head coach wants, that we can communicate back and forth with the guys that fit and guys that don’t fit, whether that’s current players or that’s free agency or that’s the draft. So I think that’s huge.

“That’s something that’s going to be a big part of the interview process: What do they think of players, how can they use players and how can they utilize the players that we already have here, because we do have, in my opinion, a lot of good football players in that locker room.”