When Dan Campbell took play calling duties away from offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn at the bye week, the Detroit Lions coach admits, now, that he was a little bit over his head.
“It was a lot,” Campbell said via Zoom on Wednesday. “I felt like it took a couple of weeks to be able to start breathing again. There was a transitional period there. It took a minute to try to get it all in.”
That is backed up by results on the field. In the Lions’ first three games with Campbell as a play caller, the Lions didn’t manage more than 16 points in a game. Of course, there were other factors involved—like poor weather and Tim Boyle making his first career start—but we also saw some communication errors that may have come from Campbell spreading himself a little too thin at the time. The coaching fiasco as the end of the Chicago Bears game—the third with Campbell as play caller—comes to mind.
Campbell recalled a lesson he learned from his mentor, Bill Parcells.
“Running a team is like having a garden,” Campbell said. “The minute you neglect one area, it’ll wither and die if you’re not giving it attention or not pulling weeds, you’re not watering. And, unfortunately, you start figuring that out the hard way.”
But the Lions offense has started to turn itself around since that probationary period. Detroit has averaged 22.8 points over the past five weeks. Those aren’t stellar numbers, mind you, but it’s impossible not to see the improvement, specifically in the passing game. Just look at Jared Goff pre and post Campbell’s play calling.
Jared Goff first 8 games: 206-of-308 (66.9%), 6.5 Y/A, 8 TDs, 6 INTs, 85.3 passer rating
Jared Goff last 5 games: 105-of-156 (67.3%), 7.1 Y/A, 9 TDs, 2 INTs, 99.1 passer rating
Campbell says he really believes he’s starting to find a groove as a play caller.
“I can tell you this, I’m miles ahead of where I was three or four weeks ago,” Campbell said. “I feel that way. I am so much more comfortable now. I do (think so). I’m starting to figure it out. Doesn’t mean I’m perfect by any means, but I do feel a lot more comfortable.”
Of course, that raises the question as to what Campbell will do next season. With Lynn’s job status in limbo, one has to wonder if Detroit will hire a new offensive coordinator. Or will Campbell, instead, just rearrange the coaches he has and continue to grow as the play caller. For now, Campbell said he has not made a decision there.
“I haven't. I know that I’m getting a lot more comfortable, and I feel like this is something that I do believe I can do and be good at, but I’m not ready to commit to what I’m doing next year yet. I’ve got to sit down and process all of this at the right time.”