Lions coach Dan Campbell blasts into town

Cover enough press conferences for new Detroit Lions coaches and the words all blend together. Blue collar, culture, high character, lunch pail, blah, blah, blah.

Meet Dan Campbell.

Campbell, a former Lions tight end (2006-08), was introduced as the Lions head coach on Thursday after signing a six-year deal.

“I wanted this job – bad – because I felt like I knew this community. … All right, here’s what I do know, is that this team is going to take on the identity of this city. This city has been down, and it found a way to get up. It’s found a way to overcome adversity.

“So this team is going to be built on – we’re going to kick you in the teeth, and when you punch us back, we’re going to smile at you, and when you knock us down, we’re going to get up. On the way up, we’re going to bite a knee cap off, all right, and we’re going to stand up, and then it’s going to take two more shots to knock us down. And on the way up, we’re going to take your other knee cap, and we’re going to get up and it’s going to take three shots to take us down. When we do, we’re going to take another hunk out of you. Before long, we’re going to be the last one standing.

“That’s going to be the mentality, darn it. We’re going to learn that any loss that we take, we’re going to make sure that we feel the full pain of it and not grow numb to it and learn from it and not to want to taste it again. We’re going to be competitive in every game. I can’t sit up here and guarantee wins and losses. I just can’t do it,’’ Campbell, 44, said.

The former tight end just seems so unlike the others. Get this, the nameplate on his office door reads: Head coach/The Dude.

His only experience as a head coach was an interim role for the Dolphins for a dozen games. It was brief and it was tough, but he learned from it and showed enough promise that Saints coach Sean Payton took him on and promised to help him develop as a coach.

Thursday’s 90-minute virtual press conference was intense and fun. Cynical reporters typically don’t laugh and smile much when meeting a new coach. Well Campbell has a certain charm.

He had no history with new GM Brad Holmes. But both did their homework, connected with mutual friends and it looks like they are a good fit. Holmes interviewed Campbell before the final decision was made.

“There’s no secret, you have to get good people around you, who are all pulling in the same direction. It’s team. It’s all about team. There’s no ego. Brad and I are going to have – we both have say on the 53-man roster. We have to agree. So, we’re going to go into a room, and we’re just going to fight until one of us comes up. We’ll see what happens – no,’’ Campbell said.

He was kidding. (It’s hard to tell with his deadpan delivery, but he was.)

“We are going to collaborate. We are going to come up with the best answer, the best solution. What can we do with this guy – is it for the future, is it for now? That’s not even a problem – I want it that way. I want people to challenge me on an idea. I don’t want to have a bunch of people that agree with everything that I say – that’s a recipe for disaster. I don’t want a bunch of people who drink a gallon of coffee like I do in a day. You find the right mix and the right balance of people. I know this, when it starts at the top and it’s right, then it’ll go down, it’ll trickle down to where it’s supposed to. Those guys are going to have pride in where there are, who they play for, how they’re going to play. You’d say more times than not, that leads to success, and there’s only one way to do it, and it’s to do it the right way. That’s the other thing that intrigued me about Sheila, she wants to win bad, but she’s not going to sell her soul to the devil to do it, neither am I.’’

He wouldn’t comment on Matthew Stafford’s future but called him “a stud.” 

Team owner Shelia Ford Hamp was a vital part of the decision process. The team — Hamp, Rod Wood, Chris Spielman and Mike Disner — set goals and worked the process. Along the way, they interviewed two Saints for the GM job. They asked each who they would want as head coach. Both said Dan Campbell who most recently served as the assistant head coach and tight ends coach for the Saints.

“All I can say is I’m confident we have two terrific men. They’re both incredibly smart, articulate in what they’re looking for and our team. They’re both winners. I think they speak the same language, and I think it’s going to be an awesome relationship. It already is, and they hadn’t really known each other,’’ Hamp said. “I think this is going to be just great. Really great.”

Time will tell.

Until then, watch your knee caps.

Lions brass excited about the hiring of GM Brad Holmes

Owner Sheila Ford Hamp couldn’t hide her excitement about new Lions general manager Brad Holmes as she was introducing him on Tuesday during a virtual press conference.

“Just wait, you’ll see,’’ Hamp said repeatedly.

Team president Rod Wood explained how he trusts his first impressions. Within two or three minutes of the first interview with Holmes (which was virtual), Wood wrote a note to himself, “This is the guy.”

Holmes, 41, has worked his way up in the NFL.

In fact, he noted the last time he was at the Lions practice facility was when he was interviewing for a PR intern position. That was around 2003.

Instead he took the same job with the St. Louis Rams and worked his way up through the scouting ranks. He spent 18 seasons with the Rams, most recently as director of college scouting. He brings his knowledge of the 2021 draft class to Detroit.

Hamp was right, Holmes seems to have the right attitude to get the Lions back to the playoffs and not just get there, but also win. 

“Everything is about the team, bottom line,’’ he said. His delivery guaranteed those are not empty words. 

He was quite clear about the intangible he wants to see in every player. That would be passion. Holmes said there is no margin for error. Passion is of utmost importance when it comes to intangibles.

“We will build a winning and inspired culture… There will be no ego in this process,’’ Holmes said.

He’s not looking at a five-year plan. He’s looking to put a winning team on the field in the fall.

It’s hard not to like this guy just from watching this one virtual press conference.

Now he has to put some muscle behind his words and make the best decisions. He will be involved in the next big hire – the head coach.

Hamp, Wood, Chris Spielman (special assistant to Hamp) and Mike Disner (vice president of football operations) were in on all of the interviews. They talked to a dozen GM candidates.

When they debriefed after the initial Holmes interview, it wasn’t just Rod Wood who knew he was The Guy. It was unanimous.

It could be the dawn of a new era for the Lions franchise which hasn’t won a playoff game since Jan. 5, 1992.

Or it could be just another Lions’ GM hire.

I’d bet on the former. 

Just a gut feeling.

Detroit Lions fire Matt Patricia, Bob Quinn; start search for replacements

General Manager Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia were fired on Saturday by Detroit Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp.

After two-plus seasons, Patricia’s record was 13-29-1 and 4-7 this season after two straight embarrassing losses.

Hamp, principal owner and chairwoman of the Lions, made the announcement along with team president Rod Wood on a Zoom conference call late Saturday afternoon.

“I am very dedicated to turning this ship around,” Hamp said.

Patricia will be replaced by offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on an interim basis.

Earlier she had informed the players of the firings through a Zoom meeting along with Bevell. Wood said a few players stood up and had positive things to say moving forward

Hamp said the last two losses to Carolina and Houston played a factor in her decision.

“Ten days ago we looked like we had a good chance to be playoff bound. Both of those games were extremely disappointing and it just seemed like the path going forward wasn’t what we wanted it to be,’’ Hamp said. “We thought this was a good time to make a change.’’

She will work together with Wood starting immediately in the search for new leadership. 

Hamp said they haven’t clearly defined the attributes they will be seeking for a general manager and coach.

“I promise you we are going to do an extremely thorough and comprehensive search for both positions,’’ Hamp said. “Yes, we have some ideas what we’re looking for but it’s not clearly defined.’’

Quinn was hired in January 2017 after Martin Mayhew had been fired late in the season. He kept coach Jim Caldwell for one season then fired him after a 9-7 season in 2017, saying that wasn’t good enough.

Patricia was hired by Quinn in January 2018 to replace Caldwell who had a  36–28 (.563) record, making him the first Detroit head coach (who lasted at least one season) to have a winning record since Joe Schmidt, who led the team from 1967 to 1972.

Patricia, 46, had a connection with Quinn going back to their days with the New England Patriots. Patricia had started with the Patriots in 2004 as an offensive assistant. He served as defensive coordinator from 2012 to 2017.  He was part of three Super Bowl championships.

Detroit was his first head coaching stint at any level. In Patricia’s first year he led the Lions to a 6-10 record, followed by 3-12-1 in 2019. 

The Lions went more than a year without winning a home game. They won at Ford Field on Oct. 27, 2019, and snapped that ugly streak with a 30-27 win over Washington on Nov. 15.

In Hamp’s opening remarks she showed appreciation to Quinn and Patricia.

“On behalf of my family I want to thank Bob and Matt for their hard world and their dedication to the Lions organization over the past several years,’’ Hamp said. “They’re both fine men and we wish them nothing but the best the rest of their careers.’’