A few weeks ago, then Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell admitted that he’s been chasing the dream of becoming an NFL head coach for the entirety of his 20 years of coaching in the big leagues.
“I’ve been chasing it for a while,” Bevell said. “I think the most important thing for me to do—I always say this—is do the job that I have right now the best to my abilities and let all that other stuff take care of itself.”
Well, on Saturday, the rest took care of itself. Head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn were relieved of their duties, and Bevell was promoted to interim head coach. Though he admitted this wasn’t the way he necessarily thought this would eventually happen, it was hard for him to hide his excitement for the opportunity.
“I’m super excited. I’m kinda jacked up for this opportunity,” Bevell said to kick off his first Zoom press conference as interim head coach.
Bevell heard the news of his promotion on Saturday afternoon while at the Henry Ford Museum with him family. Since then, he’s already been tirelessly at work at his new position. A quick meeting with the team to break the news, then it was back to work Saturday night, spending all Sunday at the team facility, and working remotely with the team again on Monday.
While Bevell was very careful not to disparage Patricia or his methods, it was clear from his first press conference that he has some plans to change the demeanor around Allen Park.
“I expect them to bring their energy, to bring a new refreshed attitude,” Bevell said of his players. “When they walk in the building on Wednesday, they’re going to get a new perspective.”
That new perspective seems to be centered around loosening things up and making the environment a lot more fun around these parts.
“I’m asking the guys to come in with a refreshed attitude, ready to work number one, but ready to have a good time, and let them lay with their hair on fire,” Bevell said. “Let them play fast, let them play free.”
The word “fun” came up several times during the press conference and seemed to really linger in the air. Given Patricia’s authoritarian style, Bevell seemed to make several veiled references to making the atmosphere in Detroit more fun again, but would back off when asked directly if players weren’t having fun under the previous head coach.
“There’s no fun in losing,” Bevell said.
However, it’s hard to hear this from Bevell and not think he’s making a direct reference to Patricia’s coaching style.
“It’s important to know that being able to have a good time and hard work, they don’t have to be individual deals,” Bevell said. “You can have a great time and work hard. That’s what I told the guys, and that’s what I want them to do. It’s never really been about their work. They work hard. I’m excited to be able to just bring that attitude for them.”
Bevell knows this is a five-game audition for him, and he plans to treat it as such. Opportunities like this don’t come often, and he has already been given assurance from team president Rod Wood that he will be given an opportunity to hold the full-time job in 2021 if he shows enough in the final month of the season.
“I spoke with Rod just briefly about it,” Bevell said. “As I know, it’s all about winning in this business. Regardless of what happens, I’ve get five weeks to audition for it. He said, ‘Yes that would be a possibility.’”
As for tangible changes on the field, Bevell said he will still continue to call plays on offense and leave defensive calls to defensive coordinator Cory Undlin. Bevell said Patricia gave him plenty of leeway, but he also wants to see more consistency in explosive plays, which have been thoroughly lacking this year. Last year, Matthew Stafford had eight plays of 40+ yards in just eight games of play. This year, he has only five through 11 games.
But if you are expecting a completely different offensive philosophy starting next week against the Chicago Bears, Bevell is keeping that a secret... for now.
“I think we’ll have to wait and find out.”
You can watch Bevell’s introductory presser right here, along with Stafford’s session: