With Saints eliminated, Lions can move forward with Dan Campbell, presumed front-runner

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
| The Detroit News

After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers eliminated the New Orleans Saints from the playoffs Sunday night, it cleared the path for the Detroit Lions to move forward with the hiring of Dan Campbell, the reported front-runner for the team’s coaching vacancy. 

Multiple national reports surfaced late last week that the Lions had zeroed in on Campbell, who played 10 years in the NFL, including a three-year stint in Detroit, before transitioning into coaching in 2010. 

Campbell got his coaching start with the Miami Dolphins as an intern before being promoted to working with the team’s tight ends, the position he played professionally. 

In 2015, when the Dolphins fired coach Joe Philbin four games into the season, Campbell was named the interim coach. Despite the dysfunction he inherited, he managed to steer the team a 5-7 record the rest of the way. 

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Campbell interviewed, but didn’t earn the full-time job at the end of the season. He quickly latched on with the Saints, once again coaching tight ends, but also serving as an assistant head coach to Sean Payton. 

In recent years, Campbell has interviewed for multiple coaching vacancies and was a finalist for the Colts job that went to Frank Reich in 2019. 

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Initially interviewing with the Lions more than a week ago, Campbell was one of six individuals the Lions talked to about replacing Matt Patricia. The former coach was fired days after the team was blown out by the Houston Texans on Thanksgiving. 

In addition to Campbell, the Lions also interviewed former Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith and interim coach Darrell Bevell, who replaced Patricia for the final five games of the 2020 season. 

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Saleh and Smith have since taken other jobs, with Saleh joining the New York Jets and Smith signing on to coach the Atlanta Falcons. He had a second, in-person interview scheduled with the Lions, but canceled when the Falcons offered him the job. 

Additionally, Detroit had a scheduled interview with Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles on Friday, but that was also scratched. 

A hiring won’t likely be finalized until early next week, only after Campbell comes to town for a second, in-person interview. The Lions facility will be closed Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Day, with business resuming Tuesday.

It’s also expected new general manager Brad Holmes, who was hired last Thursday, will be in town early next week when he will meet with the media and be present for any in-person interview with Campbell or any other potential coaching candidates.


Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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