Detroit Lions’ Dan Campbell says exactly what fan base needs to hear

Detroit Free Press

Jeff Seidel
 
| Detroit Free Press

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New Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell crushed his introductory news conference. And then, he bit a kneecap and spit it out. And bit another kneecap and spit it out.

“We’re going to kick you in the teeth,” Campbell said. “And when you punch us back, we’re going to smile at you.”

I get it now. I understand why the Lions are taking a risk on a young, relatively inexperienced head coach. They had to hire him. They had no choice. Or else he might have taken a bite out of Sheila Ford Hamp next.

Are you gonna be the one who says no to this guy?

[ Dan Campbell’s news conference has everyone ready to run through a wall ]

“And when you knock us down, we’re going to get up and on the way up, we’re gonna bite a kneecap off,” he said. “And when you punch us back, we are gonna smile at you.”

Now, before we go any further, I want to be clear. Right now, it’s just words. He didn’t win anything, other than the moment.

But man, those words were interesting, fresh and different. I can’t imagine a better, more entertaining introductory news conference, and I’ve seen more than I can remember in Detroit.

“And when you knock us down, we’re going to get up, and on the way up, we’re gonna bite a kneecap off,” he said. “And we are going to stand up, and it’s gonna take two more shots to knock us down. And on the way up, we’re gonna take your other kneecap. … Before long, we’re going to be the last one standing. All right, that’s gonna be the mentality.”

MORE SEIDEL: Lions taking big gamble with Campbell; at least their plan seems clear

If you are a free agent, somebody who loves football, tell me you wouldn’t want to play for this guy.

Does this mean he can win? No. Does it mean he is the savior for this hapless franchise? No.

But I’m certain this guy will get his players to play for him.

To run through walls.

I’m certain he will not lose his locker room like Matt Patricia.

And I’m certain the culture at Allen Park is already changing.

Or he just might bite you.

“I’ll guarantee you this, man,” he said. “These guys are going to fight and they’re going to scratch and claw and they’re going to be something this city’s proud of, because they’re going to take on the identity of this city.”

MITCH ALBOM: Lions fans need more than empty words from owner on coach, GM hires

But there was more to him than meathead, gladiator speech. He didn’t have that annoying arrogance: I come from a successful organization and know more than anybody.

He came across as honest and genuine. What you see is what you get. A guy from a small town in Texas who might get so fired up that he accidentally curses a little. So be it.

It’s just a game, folks. And he’s just a coach.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING: What Campbell’s playing days say about his future: He’s ‘tough as nails’

And it’s a pretty simple game when you boil it down. It’s all about matchups.

“We’re gonna run a system that puts our best on your worst, that’s what we’re going to do, because that’s what we did in New Orleans,” Campbell said. “So we’re going to find a way to find to put our guys in one on one matchups, whether it’s run or pass. If you’re telling me that our left tackle is better than their right end, and we can run outside zone all day, we’re gonna run outside zone, as long as we cut off the backside. Why not? I mean, if we can, if we can exploit a weakness, we’re going to do it if you tell me that, because of that, we need to run it 10 times in a row to open the game, so we can throw it. Guess what we’re going to run it 10 times.”

But there were other elements that were impressive.

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Lions’ Dan Campbell: When you knock us down, we’ll ‘bite a kneecap off’

Coach Dan Campbell used colorful language to describe what the Detroit Lions’ identity will be, saying we’ll ”bite a kneecap off,” Jan. 21, 2021.

Detroit Lions

Mainly, how he learned from Saints coach Sean Payton, promising to groom him to be a head coach. Payton taught him about the draft and game situations, how to build a staff and a team.

“He said, ‘Listen, you come out here, you’ll be my assistant head coach, and I’ll fill in all the pieces for you,’ ” Campbell said. “‘I’ll fill in everything you need to know and I’ll show you exactly what it’s supposed to look like.’

“And I did and I trusted him and I’ve always trusted him. And he took me under his wing and, man, I was a sponge. That’s what I was. I was a sponge.”

[ Campbell apologizes for anti-gay remark from his college days ]

Do Thursday’s comments mean anything in the big picture?

Not at all.

But it sure was fun as heck to listen to. It was entertaining and jacked up Lions fans.

But the real work is only beginning.

First of all, he has to hire the right coordinators and staff.

“You can put the best coaches in the room, and if they’re all a bunch of alphas and they’re trying to eat each other alive, you’re never going to get anything done,” he said.

There is some nuance there. You can sense that he has the ability to see the big picture, not just in building a staff but a team. And that’s promising.

Again, let me stress, we don’t know if he can coach. We don’t know if he can make in-game decisions. We don’t know if he will be able to manage the clock. And he has little experience. So we have to hold judgement until it gets real.

But I have no doubt about one thing: He’s gonna kill his pregame speeches.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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