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The Dan Campbell experiment is officially underway

Here we go again

Detroit Lions Mandatory Minicamp Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

I’m 35 years old. There have been a lot of changes with the Detroit Lions in my lifetime. The team is on its 14th coach since the day I was born. It’s been a long haul just waiting for something to finally click with this team and for success to finally be something that’s a regular feeling and not just a part-time fling.

There’s something different about this coaching staff and this front office. It’s really odd that the comfort level is at the height that it is. After going through the Matt Patricia era, there’s a good chance that anything was going to feel more comfortable that that. Still, the feeling is good right now. Way better than it should be.

New Lions head coach Dan Campbell’s first few months on the job have really been something. He’s been fun to watch at the press conferences and that’s been something that Lions fans have really been into. Campbell has also said a lot of things that show he has an understanding of how to be a leader and how to talk to pro athletes. So far the players seem to love him. Of course, many of them seem to love him simply because he’s not Matt Patricia.

But now the time for talking is done. The true beginning of the Dan Campbell era in Detroit begins this week with the opening of his first training camp. We’ve seen the man talk and we’ve seen the man be funny. Now it’s time to see if the man is either ready for the job or in way over his head. I know it’s been a few months and OTAs and minicamp have already happened, but this is where things start adding up towards what happens on the field.

Training camp will give us our first look at what Dan Campbell is really bringing to the table in terms of leading this team. I think Lions fans fully know and are prepared for this season to be a bit rough. The team is in rebuild mode and the roster is a ways away from being ready to really compete in the NFL. But sometimes you can still just tell if this going to work or not almost right away.

Just look to the Matt Patricia era. Things went off the rails almost immediately. Not only did the New York Jets nearly hang 50 on the Lions in Patricia’s debut, but things got off to a rocky start in training camp, with rumblings of frustrated veterans. He just looked completely lost out there from the beginning, and it obviously never got much better. So there’s a chance we might be able to tell early with Campbell.

It will be interesting to see how Campbell handles the pressure, and there is a ton of pressure. The Lions had a pretty exhaustive search and passed over some popular options. He has to prove he can be the guy that can do something that the last 19 Lions coaches couldn’t do: Form a consistently-winning Lions team during the Super Bowl era. Many are expecting him to turn around the careers of players who really struggled under the prior regime. He has to do all of this while being heavily scrutinized by not just the Detroit media, but by a national media who had already determined Campbell to be a buffoon before his first day on the job was finished. Man, that’s a pressure cooker situation.

Then there are the fans. How much pressure will they put on Campbell in Year 1? He’s coming into training camp with a ridiculously-high approval rating, but how long will that last? As we mentioned earlier, this roster is not ready and it probably won’t be ready for a while. This is a very emotional fan base and they’re not known to be quiet about how they feel. How long before the boo birds come in? How long before Lions fans take to social media and radio call -n shows demanding he be fired? How will Campbell handle that?

The experiment is on. From here on out, it all matters and we will finally get to see if the Lions new era that feels so good right now will continue to feel good for a long time. Or will this be just another fleeting feeling that turns into the all-too-familiar feeling of disappointment?