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Dan Campbell should be front runner for NFL Coach of the Year

What Dan Campbell is doing with the Detroit Lions is special.

NFL: Detroit Lions at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Come with me for a second. Leave your belongings behind. You won’t need them. We’ll be right back. Let’s go back in time for a second and look around. Let’s take a quick glance at the history of the NFL’s Coach of the Year award.

Right off the bat we can see that it’s not all about having the best record in the league or flat out being the team that steam rolls everyone. At least not all the time. Kevin Stefanski won it in 2020 for turning the Browns around from 6-10 to 11-5. Matt Nagy won it two years earlier for similar reasons. You’ll see stuff like that peppered throughout the award’s history. Turning around a team’s fortunes turns heads.

And it’s not all about the year-to-year turnaround. Sure, that’s part of it, but sometimes it’s about how you turn things around in the middle of a season. In 1970, the Bengals started their season at 1-6 just like the Lions did this year. They were able to win seven straight games and make the playoffs with an 8-6 record. Paul Brown was named Coach of the Year because of it.

This is where the Detroit Lions and Dan Campbell are. They started this season at 1-6 and they’ve turned that into a 7-7 record after going on a crazy 6-1 run in the last seven games. They were just a crazy Josh Allen throw away from possibly being 8-6. the Lions have three games left and there’s a possibility that they could do the unthinkable and run the table and make the playoffs at 10-7. That’s the kind of thing you give the award to a coach for.

At 1-6, it’s really easy to lose the locker room and just completely fold. We’ve seen the Lions fold before on many occasions. You just pack it up and make your way to the NFL Draft and hope that nobody gets fired. It happens all the time. The Lions didn’t do that. Dan Campbell kept this team together and he kept this team’s culture together. They did not waver. That’s why this team is where it is right now. Good coaching.

Even if, god forbid, things don’t work out and the Lions wind up missing the playoffs, this award is about coaching, right? You can make a pretty good argument that coaching your team to a bunch of wins makes it easy to win the award. But coaching your team out of a hole has to be harder, and it’s definitely a better story in the end.

And the Detroit Lions are a big story now. They’re now a weekly feature on NFL pregame shows and Monday morning features. Everyone is watching and the Lions, and Campbell’s fanbase is growing exponentially. Nick Sirianni may be leading a 13-1 Eagles team. Kevin O’Connell may somehow have the Vikings at 11-3, but is there a better story and a bigger accomplishment than the 2022 Detroit Lions right now?

If the Lions do pull off the unthinkable, I believe it will be an easy bet that Campbell does indeed win the award. He would be the third Detroit Lions coach to win the award and the first to do it since Wayne Fontes won it in 1991.