The Seattle Seahawks outclassed Dan Campbell and his Detroit Lions on Sunday. It was outright brutal. As if giving up 51 points wasn’t bad enough, the Lions defense gave up close to 500 yards (497) in total offense. And 265 of it was on the ground. There are endless superlatives to describe how badly the Lions performed on Sunday.
In that same breath, there are just as many to describe the fight of this team. Because even with insurmountable odds, they didn’t quit.
And Dan Campbell is the reason for it.
Make no mistake about it. This isn’t some participation trophy type of praise. The Detroit Lions are 2-13-1. They are what their record reflects, and that’s a bad football team. They’ll finish this season last in the division (again), and will have a top three pick in the upcoming draft for the second time in three years. Despite that, something can be said for what is happening with this team.
Brace yourselves, Detroit. The culture shift with the Lions is happening before your eyes.
For 60 minutes of football on Sunday, the Seahawks showcased they were better than the Lions. They had the better coach. They had more talent on both sides of the ball. And they also had the 12th man in their corner.
When the Seahawks pushed the lead to 31-7 to end the first half, the game appeared all but over, especially after Tim Boyle threw a pick to open the second half. After that, the Seahawks hung yet another touchdown on them, now giving them a 31-point lead. At that point, it was safe to say the Lions weren’t winning that game, but it didn’t matter to them.
They were going out swinging. Then something happened.
The Lions players then strapped up, and gave a small glimpse of why Dan Campbell is their head coach. They began to showcase the fight that he had instilled in them. The Lions scored 15 unanswered points to pull the game within two scores.
On the first of those two touchdowns, Boyle found the Lions’ new “ole faithful,” Amon-Ra St. Brown. And on the second one, the Lions dialed up some trickery, as Boyle completed a six-yard pass to left tackle Taylor Decker.
“You’re doing all you can. You’re shooting all your bullets, man. You’re trying to find a way to score,” Campbell said to reporters after the game regarding Decker’s touchdown.
Now here’s the beauty of that statement by Campbell. At that moment, he was talking about one play. However, unknowingly (or not), he summarized his first season as the Lions head coach: he fired all of his bullets.
By hook or crook, Dan Campbell has this Lions roster buying whatever he and his coaching staff are selling. If Matt Patricia had this roster, they would’ve screamed “I Quit” louder than the recorded voice of Mankind at the 1999 Royal Rumble. It would’ve been an insufferable experience to watch.
Instead, Lions fans witnessed the team’s “grit” and “juice” that the coaching staff said was there all season.
And here’s the real funny thing about this. It’s the meat and potatoes of this whole piece.
According to some personalities in the media, both locally and nationally, Dan Campbell’s first season in Detroit was one that would be a trainwreck. He was deemed an embarrassment before he coached a game. In that same breath, those same people said he was in over his head and would embarrass the Lions organization.
Dan Campbell, in their eyes, would prove to be the worst coaching hire in quite some time and the Detroit Lions organization would regret it. Furthermore, he’d be done before the season was over.
Well, as fate would have it, he ultimately didn’t fit their criticism, but Urban Meyer did. Because Urban Meyer’s tenure with the Jacksonville Jaguars was a poop show. It stunk. Comparing what he did as the Jaguars coach and what Campbell is doing as the Lions coach is laughable.
However, let’s do it anyway!
Which is worse: a head coach talking about playing physical football and his players taking their opponents kneecaps off, or a head coach hiring an assistant with an unflattering past with Black athletes?
Don’t think too hard on that one.
Which is worse: a head coach wearing a racecar helmet to a press conference to show his appreciation for being Grand Marshall for the Grand Prix or not flying back with your team after a loss, and a photograph leaks of you in the bar with a woman that isn’t your wife, on your lap?
Here’s another one.
Which is worse: a head coach making some late-game mistakes in play-calling but showcases incremental improvements, even in losses, or a head coach with a team that has no confidence in his leadership?
Don’t think too hard on that one either.
Urban Meyer’s coaching tenure with the Jacksonville Jaguars can be described in one word: clownshoes. You can’t say that about Dan Campbell. He was the leader of men and developer of talent that many deemed Meyer would be. Heck, it’s why fellow coaches like Titans’ Mike Vrabel reached out to offer support during his tough times this season. They witness what he’s trying to build.
And for that, he deserves a small bouquet
He has to improve as a coach in a few areas. And with time, he’ll do that. If anything, this season, Campbell has showcased that he’s a quick learner. From game to game, he’s improved as a play-caller and a decision maker. He’s bought the benefit of the doubt that with better talent, he could be the man that turns the corner for the Lions.
Urban Meyer didn’t do that in Jacksonville, hence his in-season dismissal. He made the Khan family look like fools for hiring him. Now, Meyer is out of the league and more than likely will never be a head coach again, in the NFL anyway. Dan Campbell, on the other hand, has a bright future ahead of him if he plays his cards right.
As mentioned, Campbell deserves some type of flowers for this season, but above anything, he deserves an apology from his harsh critics before this season’s start. Because the guy many praised turned out to be a turd, and the man harshly criticized planted roots for a team’s future growth.
Follow Kory Woods on Twitter at KoryEWoods.