DETROIT (AP) — Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes wrapped up his team's season that ended in the NFC championship game and looked ahead to the future for the franchise, speaking for 11-plus minutes and delivering a message before taking a question.
“I don’t want anybody to think that this was a one shot, Cinderella, magical journey that just happened,” Holmes said Monday at his season-ending news conference. "No, it’s real. This is exactly what was supposed to happen.
“I understand that based on history from what’s happened in the past, I understand you have a season like this, it’s easy to feel like this was kind of a one shot, magical, lucky, cute story, which I’m tired of hearing. It was none of that."
The Lions were preseason favorites to win the NFC North, and lived up to the hype with their first division title in three decades.
Detroit won two playoff games in one postseason for the first time since 1957 before becoming the first NFL team to lose a 17-point halftime lead in a conference title game with a 34-31 loss at San Francisco.
“Look, that was a disappointment that we didn’t make it,” Holmes acknowledged. “And again, that wasn’t a, 'Man, we got lucky.’ No, that’s what we expected and fell short, but still accomplished a lot.”
Detroit had its best season in generations largely because it had more hits than misses in the draft the past three years under Holmes, who began reshaping the long-suffering franchise by selecting offensive tackle Penei Sewell at No. 7 and and receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown No. 112 overall in the 2021 draft.
Three years later, both players earned spots on The Associated Press All-Pro team.
“We just finished the 2023 season, so that’s when you’re supposed to grade a draft — not the day after a draft,” Holmes said. "But when you look back at those picks, and those picks were not welcome by many in this room, you wanted us to pick a quarterback.
“You didn’t want us to pick Penei Sewell. People didn’t want us to wait until the fourth round to draft a wide receiver.”
The Lions, like all NFL teams, will look much different next season after making additions in free agency, via trades and the draft. There will also be players leaving for more money or others simply won't have an option to come back.
Detroit, though, will have both offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn return after they were candidates to lead other teams in the league.
Holmes will have some choices to make soon, deciding whether to re-sign free agents Jonah Jackson and Graham Glasgow on the offensive line along with C.J. Gardner-Johnson in the secondary.
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