Alright gang, brutal honesty time. The first entry in this new series was supposed to be about Jared Goff. I was going to go on and on about how Goff looks broken and not confident. What the Detroit Lions did—or should I say almost did—on Sunday changed everything in an instant. Sure Goff had some rough moments, but he put it together when it counted and I can’t overreact about him just yet. What I can and will overreact about is Dan Campbell. So here goes.
There was a time, 2018 to 2020 to be exact, when the Lions would be getting blown out 41-17 with 9:53 remaining on the clock and the game would end with a score of 41-17. That was what Matt Patricia would do. He was like a turtle. Let’s all just go in our shells and live to fight another day. Dan Campbell is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. He would not allow this team to lay down and give up.
In nine minutes and 53 seconds, the Lions took what looked like a horrible 41-17 blowout in front of a group of dejected fans and turned into a 41-33 game with a chance to tie in front of a crazy crowd that has been waiting for moments like this for years.
Yes, it didn’t work out in the end. The miracle came up short and the Lions lost the game. Despite the loss, this game showed us more than we could ask for. This game showed us that the Lions have finally found the coach who is going to take them to places that we’ve been dreaming about for years.
Dan Campbell is what this team has needed all along. Jim Schwartz was aggressive, but not in a good way, Jim Caldwell was just too calm about everything and Matt Patricia doesn't know how coach. Dan Campbell is aggressive in the right way, the team loves him, and he’s changing the entire culture of this team every time you see him.
What we saw on Sunday shows that Campbell is not going to let this team just lose a game with their heads down. If the Lions are going to lose a game, they’re going to do it knowing that they left everything they had out there, and they came away having learned something. You can’t just easily find coaches like this. Guys that flat out get it. Rebuilding isn’t just about spending money and getting good draft picks. It’s rebuilding the identity of the players you already have and teaching them how to be better players and better teammates.
As for spending money and getting good draft picks, don’t assume that no pending free agents saw or will see what Detroit did on Sunday. It’s not crazy to think that guys see a team clawing their way out of the grave and all the fun they’ve been having in camp and thinks, “I want to be a part of that.” As for draft picks, the Lions are probably going to have a type that fits this “don’t give up” attitude. Finding guys like that will only help this team get better.
It appears the Lions have finally found their man. Things should only be trending up from here.
Why it’s an overreaction
Alright, now that we had that fun, there has to be an opposition to the overreactions here. That opposition isn’t going to be too out of line. First, let’s just keep it real. This has been said before about every coach who has rolled in. I know it’s sucks to admit that, but it’s true. Even the Matt Patricia Lions were once hailed as a team that may struggle, but you’ll never see them give up.
It’s also fair to simply just say let’s calm down for a second here and remember that this was only one game. There are 16 of them left. The Lions were down 41-17 at one point. It’s clear there’s a lot of work to be done.
The Lions really need to work on their defense and they have to be willing to be a little more aggressive on offense. I’m not talking about going for it on fourth down five times. That was great and is definitely aggressive, but I’m talking things like opening up Jared Goff and the passing game a little more. Let Goff wing that pig. We know he can do it. We’ve seen it before. Fixing Goff’s perceived confidence issue could be a real project for Campbell, but it’s one he has to get on top of. The Lions left too much money on the table on Sunday and it’s because their offense was a little too dink and dunk for 75 percent of the game. That wouldn’t be an issue if they were dunking and not just dinking.
Campbell and Holmes are under long deals for a reason. This rebuild is going to be a long drive and there’s bound to be some bumps in the road. But it finally appears that the Lions have found the right guy to do the driving.