Last week, Alex Reno lamented the end of the Dan Campbell honeymoon, but I wasn’t quite ready to end the party. I was willing to buy some of the excuses the Detroit Lions made for their embarrassing offensive performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The rain was ugly. Jared Goff was clearly more injured than he let on. And it was Campbell’s first day as a play caller. Fine, you get one pass.
But Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns was even worse. The Lions protected Tim Boyle like he was a limited edition collectable. Why let him out of the package when you play with this raggedy toy with curious yellow stains on it. In this sloppy analogy, that’s running the ball on third-and-13 with the game on the line.
Lions vs. Browns Song of the Game: “Do Something” by Macy Gray
I’m the latest craze (oh yeah)
And if you stay a while
You gone be bitin’ my style
Dan Campbell won just about everyone over with his opening press conference. The kneecap biting was what grabbed headlines, but it was his self-awareness that won me over. He knew he was being painted as an old-school guy who loves to run the ball. But he promised he had gained some perspective from He knew he didn’t have the Xs and Os of a shiny new coordinator, so he preached cooperation and supporting his limitations with an impressive staff he trusted enough to stay out of their way.
Well, after a brief fling where he stayed true to some of those comments, we’re already starting to see the facade slip. Campbell is running the ball in wholly inappropriate moments, and he apparently doesn’t trust Anthony Lynn enough to do his job, as he revoked playcalling duties just midway through their first season together.
I understand all of the limitations Campbell is dealing with, and that’s why I am willing to wait this entire thing out and see what he can do with a talented roster. But I have admittedly lost some trust in some of the core values he apparently holds true.
Get up, get out
And do somethin
’How will you make it if you never even try
I don’t care how bad your passing offense is, a draw play on third-and-12 does not give your team a better chance to win than throwing the ball late in the game. The Lions unnecessarily bled 30 valuable seconds off the clock with that play, and then decided not to go for it on the subsequent fourth-and-9.
I gave Tim Boyle a D in my weekly report card, but the real grade should be incomplete. The Lions didn’t even give the guy a chance to win the team a football game. Instead, they put their trust in a tired defense to stop the best running back in the league. If you can’t trust Boyle to pick up 1 yard on a fourth-and-1 or give him two opportunities to gain 12 yards on two passes, then he shouldn’t be on your football team. I don’t care if he’s a backup. I don’t care if it’s his first career start. I don’t care if his receivers are among the worst in the league. Give him a shot. Give someone a shot.
Dan Campbell, these were your own words two weeks ago.
“We’ve got to find a way to get a couple of shots, man. We have to. We’ve got to get some shots down the field.”
You also said this.
“It’s one thing to say, ‘Well, we’re not quite separating up there.’ Then pretty soon, they don’t get any balls. They’re not separating, we don’t throw it, and before long, guys lose a bit of confidence. So I think it’s important that we try to get everybody involved a little bit—not at the expense of not using your playmakers—but at the same token I know if we can just get some of these guys involved a little bit [...] get them some primary routes, get them some primary opportunities, I think we’ll hit a couple, and I think their confidence will grow, the quarterback’s confidence will grow. We just got to do it.”
You went back on these words almost immediately at the first sign of trouble. How is Boyle’s confidence going to grown if you don’t have confidence in him. How are these receivers going to reach their full potential if you never even give them the opportunity to make a play.
On the defensive side of the ball, one of Aaron Glenn’s tenets is “you can’t be afraid to play young players.” The results: they’re getting good performances out of guys like Jerry Jacobs and AJ Parker and Mark Gilbert. They’re finding diamonds in the rough that can be part of this rebuild, despite a supposed lack of talent.
We make the same lack of talent claim on the offensive side of the ball, but who’s to say when these players aren’t even getting chances to make plays? The Lions are afraid to play their young players on offense. They’re afraid to let Boyle play. They’re afraid to throw deep. They’re afraid of the strain a long-developing play will put on their rookie offensive tackle.
Stop. Being. Scared.
Each week, we’ll be providing a Song of the Game to create a full-season playlist. You can listen to previous year’s soundtracks right here: 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020
You can find the 2021 playlist here (or below):