Following Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell's introductory media session back in January, the reception for it was universally deemed to be positive, specifically from his intended audience in the fans.
Losing in the National Football League eventually takes a toll, and causes the luster to wear off for even the most ardent of supporters.
After not having one single victory and multiple close losses, the question marks and skepticism started to escalate.
Even Campbell himself knew the "chatter" was increasing all around him after the 0-10-1 start to his tenure.
Prior to Detroit's Week 13 NFC North divisional tilt with the Vikings, Campbell's squad had lost 15 consecutive games (dating back to last season), and more and more people had begun to doubt the Lions' ability to win a game in 2021.
Yet, they did just that Sunday afternoon and in stunning fashion, defeating Minnesota, 29-27, on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Jared Goff to rookie wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown as time expired.
In doing so, Campbell notched his first career win as a full-time NFL head coach. Recall, he did win five games as the Miami Dolphins' interim head man in 2015.
"I'm proud of our guys, man," an exuberant Campbell said after the game. "I'm happy for them. Of course, I'm happy! We're all happy. I'm happy for the coaches. I'm happy for everybody. But, it's like, you want this so bad for the players, man, because they're the ones that put in all the hard work and sweat and tears. And yeah, we all do, and so do the coaches, man. But, it's also, that's what makes this great. When you lose, it hurts, it's hard. But, that's also why winning is so great in this league, because it's not easy to do. And, when you get 'em, man, it's special."
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Now, with the proverbial monkey off his back, Campbell can get back to focusing on what's most important for this present version of the Lions: Grabbing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and effectively rebuilding the franchise through the draft and free agency.
Coming into the season, everybody and their mother knew that Campbell & Co. were not going to be very good or competitive on a week-to-week basis.
With a depleted receivers group and an anemic pass rush, plus an inexperienced defensive backs unit, the writing was on the wall that Detroit, with its myriad of holes on both sides of the ball, would struggle to win more than a couple of games.
However, then the losses started to pile up and in a multitude of winnable games (i.e. in Week 5 against the Vikings and on Thanksgiving against the Chicago Bears). Subsequently, there was an increasing level of doubt that Campbell would lead the Lions to even a single victory.
Regardless of how bad Detroit truly is, Campbell could have ill-afforded to go winless in his first year on the job in the Motor City, especially considering the amount of times his faulty decision-making and inept play-calling have played a factor in the team's losses this season.
He would've made the NFL record books as the coach of the first winless team in the era of the 17-game regular season. Nobody wants that to be part of their coaching resume. It's an inexcusable offense -- regardless of the inexperience of the NFL coach -- and also a fireable offense, in my opinion.
With the miraculous win Sunday, Campbell can breathe a sigh of relief. He's off the chopping block, at least for the time being, and can now turn his attention to helping the Lions become a much more competitive team in 2022 and beyond.
That -- and even if it means Detroit goes winless the rest of the way in 2021 -- must be his and the entire organization's No. 1 priority moving forward.
No ifs, ands or buts about it for Campbell and the now 1-10-1 Lions.
“I said this last week. It’s, 'You gain confidence from a demonstrated ability to do it.’ And, we demonstrated it today," Campbell said. "That’s the first step, really it is. What you learn is what not to do, up to this point. And to finally be able to get over the hump, now you got a taste of it and you know you can do it. And this is what it took to do it. It might take this every game. It can take this for the rest of the season. It can take this next year. You may have to win a game like this every freaking time to win. But, at least you understand what it’s like now. You’ve been in it, and you know what you have to do when you’re under pressure and you’ve got to respond.”