If Detroit Lions’ Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes are ‘servants,’ who is giving orders?

Detroit Free Press

Carlos Monarrez
| Detroit Free Press

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Free Press sports writer Carlos Monarrez answers three questions about the introductory news conference of Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell on Thursday:

Did Campbell say anything that worried you?

He has never been a coordinator, so I’m worried about how much feel he’s going to have for managing a game. Most NFL games are close in the end and they come down to a few crucial plays. This is where a head coach can make a difference. We won’t know what Campbell is capable of until he coaches in a real game, but he didn’t offer a great answer about his philosophy beyond saying he wants to exploit favorable matchups, which is the most rudimentary of Football 101 concepts.

But my biggest concern isn’t specific to Campbell. It’s a word that has been going around the Lions lately that has an almost cult-like feel to it: Service. Adviser Chris Spielman said it when he was hired: “So think of it as a servant role.” General manager Brad Holmes said it Tuesday: “I truly believe that it is a service role.” Campbell said it Thursday: “You lead by being a servant.” Is this an NFL team or a Rotary club? They all seem to be hinting at being selfless, eliminating egos and helping each other and everyone in the organization realize their full potential. Sounds good, but my concern is it’s a little too convenient that they’re all spewing the same talking point, as though they were told by someone high up to view themselves as servants because, let’s face it, someone’s got to give the servants their orders.

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What was your overall impression of Campbell’s introduction?

I loved it. It was great theater and Campbell won the press conference by being charismatic, engaging and entertaining. He said he understands fans’ pain and just wants to win and doesn’t expect anyone to be on his side until he does. He was genuine, blunt and plain-spoken and was comfortable enough to crack some jokes, even at his own expense, like pretending he fooled the Lions into thinking he was Iowa State coach Matt Campbell. He acknowledged some of his deficiencies as the Miami Dolphins’ interim coach in 2015. There’s rarely anything of substance that comes from an “intro presser,” so this was about establishing Campbell’s tone and personality. He did a good job with that. I liked that he seems know what kind of players he wants for his team. I also liked that he seems very willing to communicate with Holmes and plans to use his GM as a check on some of his own thoughts.

Full text of Dan Campbell’s opening statement heard ’round the world ]

What did you think of Campbell’s apology for his anti-gay comment?

I asked Campbell to address the 1998 comment he made as a 22-year-old college student about being proud to attend Texas A&M, where “men like women and women like men.” I don’t know what’s really in Campbell’s heart, but he seemed contrite and genuinely regretful about making the comment. He could have gone further and offered his support for the LGBTQ community. But at least he seemed sorry and did the right thing by apologizing again.

Look, no one is trying to “cancel” Campbell. And yes, lots of people do and say dumb and regretful things when they’re young. But Campbell isn’t lots of people. He will be held to a higher standard as the face of this franchise. He’s going to lead not only players but an entire organization full of people from diverse backgrounds. If the culture of the Lions is going to be “open” and “inclusive,” as team president Rod Wood said he wants it to be, then it was crucial for Campbell to disown his hurtful comments. He needed to assure everyone in the organization that he isn’t a bigot and can be the leader who brings everyone together in an effort to move the team forward together.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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