The Detroit Lions made a disastrous decision in 2001 that spawned an era of unprecedented incompetence spanning the better part of two decades.
Well, that's not entirely fair. There were two playoff appearances in 2011 and 2014 during Martin Mayhew's reign, but Matt Millen's protege was unable to sustain that success.
Now Martha Firestone Ford is ready to take this team in a different direction, as evinced by her "national search" statement. While that may sound sarcastic, the pool of candidates was limited to Wayne County the last time there was turnover at the top. This actually is a step forward.
Luckily, NFL.com's Gil Brandt noted that Detroit's owner won't be undertaking that onerous task by herself:
The Lions have hired a search firm to help the team with hiring a new president and general manager.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) November 8, 2015
Unsolicited advice is usually best reserved. But the committee of Mrs. Ford, the search firm and whoever else is involved must avoid retreads just because they're around. In fact, the three best candidates aren't even technically available right now.
Duke Tobin, Director of Player Personnel, Cincinnati Bengals
As for things to be on the lookout for? How about a scouting past and a recent trend of cumulative success?
Duke Tobin took over his current position in 2002. At that time, the Bengals hadn't posted a winning record in 12 years and were only able to hit the .500 mark three times. In short, the team was a wreck.
Since that switch, however, Cincinnati has piled up six playoff appearances and reached the last four postseasons. A huge component of that success has been mid-round finds like Geno Atkins and Marvin Jones while sticking with Andy Dalton despite all of the heat on the redheaded signal-caller.
That takes some serious gumption. There's a certain quarterback in Detroit who would welcome that type of loyalty.
Eliot Wolf, Director of Player Personnel, Green Bay Packers
The same character trait that's caused Tobin to stand by his man could be the roadblock that keeps Detroit from nabbing the hottest name on Twitter.
Anytime there's an NFL GM opening, Eliot Wolf's name will come up. Wonder how much more #Packers can do to keep him in house.— Jeff Ash (@JeffAshGB) November 5, 2015
Eliot Wolf is the son of Packers legend Ron Wolf, the general manager who oversaw Green Bay's ascension from mediocrity to a Super Bowl winner. The younger Wolf has been in the organization since 2004 and was promoted to his current post under a year ago.
Those ties have prompted people to believe he'll stay put in Green Bay. Yet don't count out the intrigue of building something of one's own.
Eliot Wolf will have a much harder time distinguishing himself with the Packers because of the foundation already in place.
Additionally, there isn't a lot of hard data to support his candidacy because Ted Thompson is still the man at the top of the totem pole, but according to Lynn Henning of the Detroit News, the testimonials have been mounting for some time now.
Trent Kirchner, Co-Director of Player Personnel, Seattle Seahawks
Again, the key factors in play here are a scouting background and key role with a successful franchise.
Check and check for Trent Kirchner.
Kirchner came up with the Carolina Panthers as a scout for eight years before joining the Seahawks. During his time in Seattle, the team has sculpted a roster that has played in two Super Bowls and created arguably the most dominant secondary of all time.
And his efforts haven't gone unnoticed, per Brady Henderson of 710 ESPN Seattle:
Trent Kirchner, the team's director of pro personnel, interviewed for the Jets' GM position last season.— Brady Henderson (@BradyHenderson) June 4, 2015
All three of these candidates will garner plenty of interest once the season expires and more jobs spring open. As Lions fans know too well, the cost of making the wrong choice can haunt a team.
For a long time.