Some may look at that regression as a sign Detroit made the wrong decision, but there are four signs to the contrary that show Campbell is the right coach for the Lions moving forward.
1.) Campbell has given this team an identity
I don’t know about you, but to me, the Lions have not had an identity since Wayne Fontes was the head coach in Detroit. Ironically, that is also the last time the team won a playoff game (1991 season).
In the years since, Detroit has had a good player here and there, but it has not had an identity as a team.
Campbell established this in his opening press conference.
“Here’s what I do know,” said Campbell to reporters. "This team is going to take on the identity of this city, and this city has been down and it found a way to get up. It’s found a way to overcome adversity, right? So, this team is going to be built on, we’re going to kick you in the teeth, right? And, when you punch us back, we’re going to smile at you. And, when you knock us down, we’re going going to get up and on the way up, we’re going to bite a kneecap off. All right? And, we’re going to stand up, and it’s going to take two more shots to knock us down. And, on the way up, we’re going to take your other kneecap, and we’re going to get up and it’s going to take three shots to get us down. And, when you do, we’re going to take another hunk out of you.”
2.) Campbell has not been afraid to make changes
He showed this almost immediately, when he changed Detroit’s base defense. The Lions had been in a 4-3 (four defensive linemen and three linebackers) for years, but he changed it to a 3-4 (three defensive linemen and four linebackers).
Campbell assessed his team’s personnel, and quickly identified the league’s growing offensive trends. With more quick outside runs and passes, Campbell felt it was best to adapt.
The results in 2021 did not show a drastic improvement, but the decision did move the meter.
Overall wise defensively, Detroit went from being the 32nd-ranked unit in 2020 to the 31st-ranked one in 2021. More notably, Detroit gave up 27.5 points per game this season, vs. 32.4 points per game a year ago.
Campbell additionally took over the offensive play-calling duties from Anthony Lynn during the season. Detroit won two of its three games with Campbell being a first-time play-caller, proving to be another quality decision.
Recommended Lions Articles
Chris Long: 'You Can Do a Lot of Stuff with Aidan Hutchinson'
Former NFL defensive end Chris Long believes the Detroit Lions will be able to do a lot with No. 2 overall selection Aidan Hutchinson.
Look: Replica Lombardi Trophy Delivered to Matthew Stafford
Matthew Stafford received a prized delivery to his home.
NFL Analyst: Lions Top Priority Is 'Stay Sexy'
Detroit Lions have emerged as a team many NFL pundits are speaking positively about.
3.) Losing bothers him
It is so refreshing to see a head coach who gets emotional, opposed to these statues on most every NFL sideline.
Campbell was deeply stirred postgame after a close loss fo Minnesota, which dropped his team's record to 0-5.
“It’s tough. When you see your players give all that they have, and you lost that way, it’s tough. You don’t want that for them,” Campbell told reporters, while fighting back tears and eventually breaking down. “We’ll be better for it.”
A couple months later, Detroit clawed back to beat Minnesota on a last-second touchdown, and Ford Field exploded in celebration. If someone did not know any better, they would have thought the Lions were going to the Super Bowl.
Campbell gives a damn, and the team responded in 2021 by competing and consistently fighting until the final whistle.
4.) Campbell has been receiving praise across the league
The Lions have the sixth-worst record in the NFL over the past decade (64-95), and they tend to draw a lot of criticism.
So, when Campbell started drawing lofty praise (despite the team’s record) from former NFL general managers in December, it was saying a lot.
“He’s an innate and transcendent leader whose energy is palpable,” wrote Tannenbaum.
Former NFL GM Pat Kirwan took it a step further, calling Campbell "a young Bill Cowher.”
Such lofty words are additional pieces to the same puzzle, which is readily coming together and giving perspective to the fact that Campbell is, indeed, the right fit for this team and this city.