Coaching a football team isn’t easy. I think as football fans and journalists, we tend to get wrapped up in the idea that everyone on the field is just a video game character with no human background, emotions or drive. They’re video game characters that we very quickly want to see replaced if things don’t work out.
On Sunday, we saw a side of Dan Campbell that we’ve never seen before after the Detroit Lions’ tough 19-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on a late field goal. It wasn’t the goofy side and it wasn’t the meathead side. It was the emotional side. Dan Campbell openly cried during his press conference, and it was the most refreshing thing I’ve seen in Detroit sports in a very long time.
I’ll get to why this is so important from a team aspect, but first, this is important from a human aspect. This is important from male aspect. In a world dominated by sports, football has always been the sport most synonymous with the term “be a man.” It’s all about getting back up, rubbing some dirt on it, and getting back out there. It’s hard hits and taunting. It’s the sport that basically didn’t want to admit that concussions were real until they absolutely had to.
So, naturally, crying is an aspect that has often been frowned upon, especially when it comes to the head coach. That’s why it’s refreshing to see a man of Dan Campbell's stature throwing out whole toxic masculinity thing and letting those emotions out. As a man, I gained so much respect for Campbell on Sunday because of it. It’s okay to cry and it’s okay to feel emotions that, for years, have been deemed as feminine (in a pejorative sense) or weak.
I’d bet the men in that locker room felt that same way, too. I’d bet Lions players, who already seemed to be bought in on Dan Campbell, are even more bought in now that they know Dan Campbell is willing to go there in a world where you’re supposed to be a “tough guy” and cry for them.
“I think we all kind of feel the same way he does,” Jared Goff said. “It’s hard. It’s hard to give everything you got every week and to have moments of feeling like you’ve won the game and have it snatched from you. It’s tough. It’s tough. It’s as hard as it gets in this league, to do stuff like that and try to bounce back from it. I’ve said it every week, but we’ve got a resilient bunch that will bounce back. And Dan’s our leader.”
Wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge echoed Goff’s sentiments.
“It shows us that it means just as much to him as it does to us,” Hodge said per The Athletic. “We’ve gotta continue to come together as a group and make it better for him. He’s doing his job. He’s putting us in good situations, we just have to come back next week and do our job and get better, week by week.”
It’s all proof that Dan Campbell’s heart is truly in this. He really cares and he really feels for the team. He feels their frustration and their pain. That shows a lot more than you can imagine to a young team. It shows that this is guy that has your best interest at heart. He really cares about you. This guy isn’t just looking for a check.
If you’re a Lions fan, especially a frustrated one, this moment right here is why you should realign your expectations and really test the boundaries of your patience with this regime. They might fail, but they’re clearly going to put their hearts in it for you. He empathizes with the players, but he feels your frustration, too.
This is the guy. I’ve said it a million times about a million coaches, but this is the guy. Dan Campbell can take this team places, and it’s going to be because he cares. Even if he fails, you’ll never be able to say he didn’t care. I applaud Dan Campbell for this moment.