Here’s one I’m sure nobody wants to talk about. Is Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell in over his head? Is he ready to be a head coach? After Sunday’s game, it’s fair to talk about it out loud.
Look, I love Dan Campbell. I have no doubt that he’s a good leader of men and that he can get this team to buy-in. I love the press conferences and I love that he puts his heart on his sleeve. I truly believe there is a place for that and it’s super important.
Having said all that, the last two games for the Lions have provided us with some real concerns. The Lions got boat raced by the Eagles and Campbell said the team wasn’t prepared and it was his fault. What do you mean the team isn’t prepared? Your only job is to prepare this team to play the game.
I’m sure he didn’t wheel in a TV and show movies all week like he’s a substitute teacher. I’m sure the Lions prepared for the game like a football team would prepare. But the performance would make you feel as if the information they used to prepare wasn’t taken in accurately and wasn’t dispersed accurately. I’m not saying Campbell is dumb by any means, I’m saying maybe Dan Campbell doesn’t know how to prepare his team at this point. That’s concerning if true.
The real issue I’m taking with Campbell at the moment is with how quarterback Jared Goff was handled in Pittsburgh. Goff was injured early in the game and it was clearly affecting his ability to throw the ball and move in the pocket. Now, I know that Goff is not particularly good at either of those things when he’s healthy, but when he’s injured it’s twice as bad.
I know Goff wants to tough it out and wants to play. He even said in the post game press conference that it was bothering him, but he felt like he could compete. He even argued that it wasn’t impacting his play.
“I felt like I was fine in there and felt like it didn’t affect me through the game,” Goff said.
But in these moments you can’t cater to the player. You have to tell that guy that he has to go sit down and you have to get a healthy player out there. It’s one thing to have the team like you, it’s another thing to maybe have that leading your thinking during decision time. You’re the leader here and you have to make leader decisions.
After the game, Campbell mentioned that he spoke with the team doctor and his staff about Goff and they cleared him to play.
“I think it was more that we all felt like he was good. He was good enough to go,” Campbell said.
But what is it that they saw from Goff on the field that made anyone on the staff think he was good to go and unbothered by the situation?
Maybe with David Blough—who, let’s be honest, isn’t much better—the Lions would have had a chance to win this game. Instead, the Lions offense in the second half was a full on junior high style offense. They ran the ball an obscene amount of times, even when their best chance of continuing a drive was to throw the ball. Both Campbell and Goff said weather had a lot to do with the game plan, but the Steelers didn’t hesitate to let backup quarterback Mason Rudolph throw it 50 times on Sunday.
Maybe if you have a quarterback that can throw there, you can potentially put up a field goal or something.
This is why I ask today if Dan Campbell is ready to be a head coach in the NFL right now? If you can’t make the leadership decisions and can’t adequately get the team prepared for a game, those are two major red flags that need to be brought up.
Why this is an overreaction
Now, for this week’s opposite reaction I’m going to cheat a little bit. I used words like “right now” for a reason. Dan Campbell may not be ready “right now,” and that’s okay. This is the time to learn your lessons. The Lions are low on talent and and high on things like injuries and bad luck. This is the time where you need to make your mistakes and learn from them.
It’s hard to ask any new coach to come in and just have it all together right away. For that reason, Campbell deserves a pass. Like I said, he does have some really good traits in his wheelhouse already. The team seems to like him and they seem to trust him too. Eagles game aside, this team is continuing to fight and has the right attitude from top to bottom.
If you can get that fight out of guys who aren’t all likely to be here for the long haul, imagine what you can do with the guys that are. If Campbell can clean up some things in his preparation game and be ready to make the tough decisions after this season, then the future could be very bright.
I think that he will take these lessons to heart and learn from them. Unlike his predecessor, Campbell has give no indication whatsoever that he knows it all and that he has nothing to learn. To the contrary, he’s shown that he’s willing to learn and has often fessed up to coaching mistakes. With that in trait in his wheelhouse, he’s primed for success down the road. Hopefully not too far down though.