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Lions head coach Dan Campbell explains how he built impressive staff

No, it was not by threatening their kneecaps.

NFL: AUG 10 Patriots Training Camp Photograph by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After the Detroit Lions hired Dan Campbell as their next head coach, the biggest concern among many was the staff he’d build around him. Fairly or not, the perception of Campbell was that he was not a schematic coach, and therefore needed brilliant minds to surround himself with if the Lions had a shot to keep up with today’s NFL.

He has already silenced a lot of those doubters by hiring a staff full of coaches that even some national pundits are praising:

When Lions team president Rod Wood introduced Campbell to the media a couple weeks ago, he said part of the reason he was hired was because Wood was told by Saints general manager Mickey Loomis that “coaches are going to run to Detroit and want to be on his staff.”

That appears to have been the case, indeed. But how did Campbell do it?

In a pair of one-on-one interviews with the local media, Campbell explained his process.

First, it was about criteria, which Campbell simplified to two essential assets: a top-notch coach and a top-notch person. It couldn’t be one or the other. It had to be both.

“I swore up and down that I was not going to, if I got in this seat again, I refused, even if he’s an outstanding person, which I know plenty of them, an outstanding person who coaches, but he’s an average coach, I’m not doing it,” Campbell told the Detroit News. “That’s how you create average players. These were going to be top-notch people who were top-notch coaches, across the board.”

And while there were a couple of hires that came from Campbell’s personal history—defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn coached with him in New Orleans, special teams coordinator Dave Fipp overlapped with him in Miami—the new Lions head coach made sure he was going to reach outside his own bubble.

“I refused to hire my friends that are average coaches or the guy that I owe but is an average coach but outstanding human being, because that’s how you become average,” Campbell told ESPN.

It has become apparent that Campbell has favored former NFL players in his coaching staff. Running backs coach Duce Staley, offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, Glenn and previous regime holdover offensive line coach Hank Fraley have all had lengthy playing careers. But this trend in hires just happens to be a coincidence, per Campbell.

“I didn’t write ‘I’m just getting ex-players’ or ‘Find as (many) ex-players as you can,’” Campbell told the Detroit News. ”I really didn’t go in with that process. I honestly did not think that way.”

Regardless of his thought process, the Lions undoubtedly scored some coaches that were in high demand elsewhere. Fraley interviewed with two other teams before choosing to stay in Detroit. Glenn was a coach that had scored a head coaching interview with the Jets just a couple weeks before the Lions hired him. And Duce Staley was one of the most coveted coaches out there after asking the Eagles for their permission to leave after their own coaching changes. Campbell immediately pounced.

“Next thing I know, somebody said, looks like Duce may get out of there, like Chicago, so I’m like, ‘Hey, Duce. Duce, I thought you were staying,’ “ Campbell told ESPN. “So I got after him and he was all on board. He wanted to be here. He wanted to be something special.”

The Lions’ coaching staff looks solid on paper, and Detroit’s process looks much more thorough than previous seasons. We’ll see if it eventually translates to wins on the field.

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.