The bye week is a good week for reflection, and while history tells us we don’t have a lot of reasons to be thankful for being a Detroit Lions fan, the present is an awful lot of fun right now.
Much of that is because of coach Dan Campbell, who is currently one of the most beloved Lions coaches in the history of the franchise. Not only has he helped build a team that is on track to win their first division title in three decades, but he is also just one of the most genuine, likable people currently in the entire NFL.
I could give you loads of examples of Campbell’s stellar character, whether it was him stopping in the middle of a press conference to offer his condolences to a reporter who lost his wife or him tearing up after costing the team a win in Minnesota. But I’m not sure there’s a more accurate depiction of Campbell’s character than this fantastic ESPN interview that aired before Monday night’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders.
In the interview, Campbell starts talking about the 2021 team that went 3-13-1 and the 2022 squad that went 9-8. Those teams may not have been successful in the traditional sense, but Campbell got emotional talking about how important they were in building the team and culture we see today.
“We’re the same, gritty team, we’re just more talented,” Campbell said. “That’s what I would say, because the core of that (previous) group, man, you talk about a bunch of dudes that were just going to battle. We didn’t quite have the horses we’ve got now, but those guys, talk about laying it on the line and going toe-to-toe with anybody and willing to fight to the end. I’ll never forget those guys.”
And that’s when Campbell's warm smile turned into welling up with emotions. ESPN’s Michelle Beisner quickly noticed and asked what about those teams are making him emotional today.
“I just... I appreciate guys that lay it on the line,” Campbell said after a long pause. “Maybe you’re outnumbered, maybe you’re not the most talented and maybe the odds are against you and nobody believes in you, and I respect the hell out of those guys that’ll fight. That’s what we’re about. That’s what we’re about, man. That’s how we roll here.”
Campbell noted that he really connects with those kinds of players because that’s how he views his own professional career as an NFL player.
“That was me. I didn’t have talent,” Campbell said. “I mean, I had enough talent to play in the league. I was fortunate to get a number of years. But ultimately I just wanted to please my coaches, I wanted to please my teammates. Man, I didn’t ever want a teammate to look at me and say, ‘Man, that guy, he isn’t doing anything for us. He doesn’t finish plays, he’s not accountable.’ I took that stuff personal.”
There isn’t any clearer view of who Campbell is as a person and as a football coach than this interview.