The Detroit Lions have appointed Brad Holmes, the college’s former director of scouting, as their next general manager. At age 41, Holmes is one of the youngest GMs in the NFL and reportedly has agreed to a five-year deal.
Holmes’ 18-year rise through the Rams organization has been an interesting journey and has influenced his philosophy on scouting and evaluation of players while building a roster.
Eric Edholm interviewed Holmes in 2019 and published the interview for Yahoo Sports. In it, Holmes discusses his background and why he went into scouting, which I have reorganized and summarized for easy consumption, as well as adding his own commentary.
Holmes played football at North Carolina A&T, but his football knowledge is further compared to his college days. Holmes’ father, Mel, played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his uncle Luther Bradley was a Lions first-round pick in 1978.
After college, Holmes joined Ram’s public relations department as a way of breaking up in the NFL, and would eventually take an internal position within the scouting department in 2004. After three years of working out of office – and making runs at the airport – he had a chance to start pro day scouting in 2007, primarily collecting data on players.
A keen eye for Holmes’s work ethic and talent will accelerate his career from there.
Holmes told Adholm, “The only reason I have achieved this milestone in my career and I have only focused on the role in which I can be the best.” “Whatever the role at that time. So I was a scouting assistant, and I tried to be the best scouting assistant. I want to get the fastest coffee, I want the best profile tape possible, and all that. When I was a field scout, I wanted to be the best at it. You know what I mean? So I never really looked forward. Opportunities – blessings to all of them – have descended upon me, and I have just earned my way to where I am. “
Over the past 16 years, Holmes has gained a reputation in the NFL as a sharp-minded, and one of the top influencers for Ram general manager Les Snead.
Former NFL running back Wilbert Montgomery got a chance to work with Holmes, as he worked with Ram as a backing coach and recently told Free Press ‘Dave Birkitt’ that Holmes had given him his childhood friend and The legendary Ravens ‘GM’, reminded me of OG Newsom. This is very high praise.
Holmes is credited with charging Ram to draft All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, when several other teams were upgrading him due to his size. Vincent Bonsignor, of The Athletic ($), described how Holmes went the extra mile to deeply evaluate Donald despite being the director of college scouting.
Donald is as physically gifted as any player in the NFL, if not more, but only at 6-0 3/4 gift, his height was a major red flag among the analytics community.
“I’m paying too much attention to abstract traits so that there are more than physical traits,” Edholm from Holmes. “Now I’m like, ‘Well, yes, he’s fast, but does he work hard?” Do you know? I just don’t care that much about that stuff. Of course, I care about it. But I have learned so much why a player is or is not successful in this league. It falls so much on the intangibles more than the physical.
Donald was not the only player where Holmes described his ability to identify non-physical traits.
“Take someone (Rams safety) like John Johnson.” His instinct was just this. He has simply turned into a heck of a run pro. He is just terrible. But I remember that during his evaluation process, it really wasn’t … I mean, he’s a good-sized kid, but you know, he didn’t run the fastest. I remember watching him live and then in his Senior Bowl, it’s not like he was picking up a bunch of balls – and he might have had six sixes or something in his career. But he was just cutting so many routes. He knew to take angles just spontaneously. So I look at him now – I remember the first start he made against Seattle and threw his ball on the sideline and looked like I am, yes. “
Johnson would be a potential free agent this offseason and was a Ram player that I recognized the Lions should see – now more than ever – in last weekend’s Wild Card Playoff games.
While Holmes places a high value on non-physical intangibles, he is not going to dismiss the value of analytics.
“Why would you turn down additional information? Why would you ignore data? ‘Especially stuff you can use to guide you and help you make better decisions. As scouts, we are looking for the best information, with the best sources to talk to, the best game to get to know and evaluate the player correctly. Analytics, they are nothing but help towards that end. And I think this was the biggest development (development of methods of scouting) that I have seen from the beginning. “
At the end of the day, Holmes tends to lean on the assessment skills he has got today, and the intentions of a player will inspire decision-making, but he has also shown a willingness to adapt to new ideas ever- The Changing Scouting World.
“You start with the heart and you have it with physical abilities, and you see that it all comes together in your evaluation.”