The excitement in Detroit was palpable in the early days of Dan Campbell. Here was a guy that fans felt understood their plight. He was just like us. He got what Detroit Lions fans wanted so badly, and he was super entertaining to boot. Those days seem like mirage now.
Lions fans were in the desert. It was hot and they were thirsty for success. They saw Campbell carrying a bright future full of playoff appearances and a championship just standing there. Sadly, once the Campbell era finally kicked off after months of hype, all we wound up getting was an 0-10-1 record and some really embarrassing moments.
Were the talking heads right? Did the Lions really just hire a coach who’s not fit to do this job? Did they really just get themselves a “meathead” who doesn’t know what he’s doing? The kneecap thing and the racing helmet thing that once felt fun now kind of makes you feel like you’ve been duped.
So what now? There were previous excuses for Campbell. The roster was bad, injuries keep piling up and the schedule is tough. But since the Eagles game, it’s hard not to pin losses directly on Dan Campbell. He didn't have the team prepared against the Eagles, he chose to get conservative at the wrong time against the Steelers and Browns, and the timeout situation against the Bears was a real indication that maybe Campbell is in over his head.
What do the Lions do? Should they keep holding on and hope for better days? Hope that Campbell learns from this mistakes and grows? After all, they did sign him to a six-year deal. Maybe the plan all along was to take your lumps and build the team up over time. What if the Lions just cut their losses and found a new coach? They could quit wasting time and before they get too deep into a rebuild, find the right guy. Maybe general manager Brad Holmes has an idea of a guy he’d like to bring in. After all, this was an arranged marriage.
How deep into this thing are the Lions going to get before they realize they’ve made a mistake? That’s a big question. Time is of the essence. Lions fans don’t want to wait. They want a winner now. If Campbell can’t be that guy, the Lions should part ways with him and find someone who can make an immediate impact.
Why this is a huge overreaction
Okay, let’s pump the brakes. I totally get how Lions fans can and should be upset. Fans of any team want to see their team win and they deserve that for investing time into the team. But maybe the fans in Detroit are in need of a reminder of just how bad things are right now to remind them that winning and success were never really supposed to be a part of 2021.
The previous regime went full Thanos on this organization. They scrapped this team down to the foundation, and after they left, this regime tore down just about every other remaining piece. The Lions are the second youngest team in the league after the Jets. On top of that, they have lost just about every foundational piece they need to injury. Frank Ragnow, Trey Flowers, Jeff Okudah, Romeo Okwara, Taylor Decker, and Quintez Cephus being gone is a huge blow for a team that needs these guys. This team also has the worst receiving corps in the entire league. They have one of the worst quarterback rooms, too.
The schedule really is really hard, too. The Rams, Packers and Ravens are three of the best teams in the league. The Bengals, Vikings and 49ers are all in playoff spots as well. Yes, these are all excuses. But, why are excuses such a bad thing? This would be a lot for any coach to overcome. There has to be some leeway for Campbell on this front. You call them excuses. I call it context.
There are some issues with Campbell’s coaching that need to be fixed. I won’t let him off the hook for those. He has issues with time management. He struggles with choosing when to be conservative and when to take risks too. Lastly, the offensive play calling is a problem. He needs to get together with offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn and really look at all the film over the offseason to see what can be fixed. It shouldn’t be hard to spot the issues.
Another reason you should really cut Campbell slack, and it’s a big reason, is that you can see how hard players are playing. I’m sure you’re tired of hearing that, but it continues to be true. Campbell and company are giving players that otherwise wouldn’t have been given a chance and getting starter-worthy play out of them. It’s hard not to look at guys like Jerry Jacobs and AJ Parker and think that good coaching had nothing to do with two undrafted rookies turning themselves into guys that have promising careers. Penei Sewell is very talented, but he doesn’t make the transition to the right side of the offensive line as well as he has without good coaching.
This team is bought in. They keep losing, but they have yet to look like an 0-10-1 team. You don’t see this team mailing it in. You see them lose close games every week. Think about what Campbell can do once he has some better talent. Think about what this team could be with a better receiving corps and a better quarterback. Maybe he can keep chipping away at Jared Goff and find that 2018 Goff in there somewhere.
I hate to boil it all down to this again, but what did you expect from this depleted roster in 2021? It’s very beginning of a rebuild. The Lions would be making a big mistake if they bailed out this early. Let Campbell continue to grow as a coach and let this roster build around him. I still believe that Dan Campbell is the guy. You should too.