It’s fair to say that Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell is likely one of the most popular people in the state of Michigan right now and for good reason. In just a matter of three seasons, he’s taken one of the historically worst franchises in professional sports, and turned them into a serious contender the likes we have only seen once or twice in the Super Bowl era.
He’s already helped raise a banner, he’s ended a few droughts of 30+ years, and several times throughout the 2023 season, the Lions were accomplishing things they hadn’t since the 1950s.
But it wasn’t always so clear that Campbell was the guy. Some were concerned with his lack of coordinator experience when he was hired. Others may have been put off by his eccentric opening press conference. And certainly after Detroit started 4-19-1 in Campbell’s first 24 games as coach, doubt was creeping in for even the most patient of Lions fans.
So this week in our Pride of Detroit Direct newsletter, we asked fans when they first believed that Dan Campbell was the right man for the job. Here are some great answers.
Note: If you want to be a part of these weekly questions, you can subscribe to POD Direct here. A subscription includes: weekly film breakdowns from Jon Ledyard, pre and post-game essays from myself, personalized videos from me and Erik Schlitt, plus analysis pieces from Ryan Mathews, Brett Whitefield, and Morgan Cannon.
We got a TON of awesome responses, so I apologize if yours didn’t make the list below. It’s only because we didn’t have room. But rest assured I read them all.
Day 1. Really.
I had faith that he was going to do a really good job based on his time in Miami as an interim coach. That faith was tested by Anthony Lynn and his offense, but I feel confident even if the team loses both coordinators this year, that Campbell is the right man for the job.
I really hope they finish the job this season though.
I trusted Campbell almost from day 1. I felt the honesty in his voice immediately. It was reinforced by Chris Spielman (who I had 100% belief and trust in) and Sheila who by hiring Chris renewed my faith in mgmt. The hiring of Holmes also reinforced things. I had never heard of Holmes but his and Dan words of communication and cooperation just told me they knew how to manage. In my mind the key to a great leader was being able to listen and want to help their team. A true leader does not demand respect he has to earn that respect. (A phrase I repeated to my managers and employees throughout my career.) you felt this in Campbell’s words.
Honestly, his introductory press conference. I loved every second of it. His words exuded passion but also felt earnest. We don’t get to call many people authentic these days but he is, most definitely, it.
The exact moment when Dan won me over as a fan was during the “Hard Knocks” run that showed so much more of his smarts and coaching strengths than we’d ever seen before. Not to say that I knew we were going to be ultra competitive in year 3, or even really finish year 2 the way we did, but he had so much confidence in what he was saying that it was easy to tell that he wasn’t just blowing smoke for the cameras.
During Hard Knocks.
There I first got a glimpse of what I feel is key in being a good coach/boss; never asking more of your team than what you are willing to do yourself.
Dude lives and breathes Detroit Lions football. As he interacts with the guys, he isn’t just blowing smoke or playing a power card (see MP and the hill lol). He and a majority of the coaching staff played the game and have experienced the physical and mental rigors that players endure, knowing that different guys need different motivation to succeed at their highest level.
Dan has a 1x1 say/do ratio and has stayed true to the plan, making wise adjustments on the way when needed, doing whatever it takes to create a “play to win the game” mindset.
I was excited about Campbell in year one, but was pushed into being fully on board while watching Hard Knocks. The inside view helped show who he was as a leader and what he was building in this team.
1st Moment - He won my heart with “biting kneecaps” introductory press conference. This gave headlines to Detroit and I felt it in my chest that he was genuine and authentic instead of coachsay that we’re all to use to at the time. Hell, I went into Madden to create my Lions coaches team once the staff was assembled (2005/2006 Gamecube via Wii).
2nd Moment Week 5 2021 @ Minnesota - Germ gets Lions back in the game, Stout redzone defense, Anzalone INT, Siebert nailing kicks, 2pt conversion to win. After this loss Lion’s were 0- 5. Seeing Campbell teary eyed in the post game interview made me a believer. Even my friends (Bucs, S’Hawks, Eagles, Saints fans) said, “I wish I had Campbell as a coach” and all their teams were winning. Campbell is authentic and will take the humble approach even if it allows his emotions to come out.
Started believing in Dan when he fired Lynn year one. Frankly STOPPED believing at 1 and 6 but (thankfully) hopped back on after the first Packers win and told myself to give it another go. What a freaking ride it has been since then.
When I heard the Lions hired him; that was the start. I had hoped, for him, that Miami would have made him HC. He was a former Lion and a Parcell’s guy… and I’m a big fan of the Parcell tree. I knew he had been with the Saints and was assistant HC to Payton. SO when I heard Lions hired him… I was stoked. That being said, his intro presser…. Then Hard knocks? I knew this was a different hire and my belief of success turned into…. Controlled fury?
Would love to hear from you all, as well! Scroll down to the comment section and let us know!