Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell has a myriad of lessons to learn, going into his first season as a full-time NFL head man.
The biggest lesson, though, will be to avoid repeating the mistakes that Matt Patricia made during his three years on the job in the Motor City.
With that said, here are the three most notable mistakes that Patricia made that Campbell must steer clear of, heading into his first campaign with the Lions.
Making players behave in a way that they weren't used to
This was clear-cut mistake No. 1 for Patricia. He came into Detroit in 2018, and attempted to put his stamp on the team right away by establishing an atmosphere in the locker room that was conforming to his coaching style and tight-lipped, ultra serious ways, rather than the more loose ways of the players.
It backfired nearly immediately, and it turned off a variety of veteran players (i.e. Darius Slay). Patricia never recovered, causing him to lose not only the respect of players like Slay but also control of the locker room.
Campbell can ill-afford to follow the same dangerous path with the 2021 version of the Lions franchise. There's no need to restrict the players' personalities or to attempt to turn the players into different individuals, both on and off the field.
It'd be a recipe for disaster for the former Detroit tight end, and it'd certainly cause him to lose some respect, just like it did with Patricia.
The difference-maker is that Campbell is basically the polar opposite of his predecessor -- likely a large reason why Campbell was hired to replace Patricia.
Campbell's a former NFL player who is much more loose in his ways. He's a walking soundbite, and he brings with himself a higher degree of relatability with the players than Patricia did.
Patricia was the prototypical "no fun" coach, and it was often his way or the highway. And, he didn't care who he upset or ostracized along the way.
Campbell is off to a much better start, and because most notably, he commands the respect of the locker room. I don't see that changing any time soon for the former New Orleans Saints assistant, either.
Failing to place a strong enough emphasis on the ground game
Despite the Lions' best efforts, the organization never had a balanced offensive attack during the Patricia era.
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Former Detroit signal-caller Matthew Stafford was typically solid through the air. But, Detroit's backs, such as ex-Lions running back Kerryon Johnson, failed to consistently provide the production of a No. 1 back.
There were also too many times where Detroit got away from the run game way too early and never got back to it. That needs to change under Campbell, and likely will change with former L.A. Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn now calling the shots on the offensive side of the football.
He's expected to place a heavy emphasis on the ground game, and that could do wonders for the organization's one-two punch of D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams in the backfield.
So, Campbell must keep Lynn honest and ensure that the run game is established early and often on a week-to-week basis during the 2021 season.
Failing to be aggressive enough with the pass-rush
Patricia's defensive philosophy was of the "bend-but-don't-break" variety. That approach failed miserably in Detroit for the former longtime New England Patriots defensive coordinator.
In all three years of Patricia's tenure, the Lions consistently failed to get an adequate amount of pressure on the opposing quarterback.
There's no doubt that the above must change during Campbell's time roaming the sidelines in the Motor City. He and Detroit defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn will be tasked with producing a pass-rush that gets to the quarterback on a much more frequent basis. And, key to that will be coming up with a gameplan that places a heavier emphasis on being aggressive with the pass-rush and blitzing the opposition.
After three years of Patricia, it's the least that Campbell and his defensive coaching staff could do.
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