Lions GM says team 'not scared of the expectations' to win

September 1, 2023, 1:39 PM

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- "Jurassic Park" was the top-grossing movie and Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" ruled the charts as a No. 1 smash hit back when the Detroit Lions won their most recent division crown.

Now, three decades later, Lions general manager Brad Holmes says his level of confidence is "very high" to win the NFC North with how the current roster is constructed entering his third season in the role.

The Lions haven't won a division title since 1993, when it was known as the NFC Central and featured five teams.

"I do think that we took our medicine in the past couple years. Me and [Lions coach] Dan [Campbell] talk about it all the time," Holmes said. "We've coached the Senior Bowl; we had to do 'Hard Knocks.' We've done all that.

"We've gone through a lot of darkness to get to this point, but that's where the grit comes in place in terms of just not really wavering and put your head down or get discouraged, and we just kind of put the focus in building the best roster that we can and really getting the best football players," he added.

The Lions will face the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL Kickoff Game  on Thursday night, Sept. 7. Detroit has four prime-time games scheduled in 2023 after playing in just five prime-time games total over the past five seasons, which was the fewest in the NFL.

This is the first time the Lions are favored to win the NFC North since the division was formed in 2002 and their first time favored to make the playoffs in over 15 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

"We're not scared of the expectations," Holmes said. "The expectations are earned through, I think, what we've built and what we've done up until this point in terms of how we finished the end of the season and through our player acquisition process. But now we've got to just prove them right."

For the first time in Ford Field history, Lions season tickets have already sold out. Holmes calls the "hype train" a little surprising this past season "because we didn't make the playoffs," but they're embracing the early fanfare.

"I didn't think it would be to this magnitude, but regardless of whatever or how much positive news is coming out, we'll still keep that same mindset that we'll always be the hunters and we're not succumbing to the targets on our back," Holmes said. "We'll always be hunting and aiming for the target, and it doesn't really change."

Detroit's front office feels that it has assembled a gritty group that continues to carry an underdog spirit coming off the team's first winning season since 2017. The Lions closed out the regular season in 2022 with eight victories over their final 10 games.

"As a player, you want expectations, you want people to think you're gonna be good," said Lions assistant general manager Ray Agnew. "And the reason why we can be comfortable is because of the guys we have on this team. These guys are still hungry. They're still hungry to prove that they're great in this league, they're still hungry to prove that we belong in the conversation, so I don't worry about that. We've got a hungry group of guys."