Recap: What Lions’ Campbell said in first press conference

Detroit News

Nolan Bianchi
| The Detroit News


New Lions head coach Dan Campbell took the stand at Allen Park for the first time Thursday. 

Campbell laid out his vision for building a winning culture, his relationship with new general manager Brad Holmes, what he learned during his time as an interim in Miami, and his thoughts on Detroit’s front office.

On personalities in the locker room

Campbell says that in New Orleans, they had all kinds of personalities, but when it came time to work together, “and be part of a unit, those guys were on-point.”

He says that as long as a player isn’t distracting and is “team-oriented,” he will embrace those personalities.

Campbell says that when he was with the Cowboys, they signed a player who had a terrible reputation. He says that he ended up being one of the best teammates he’s ever had, “so I’m open to personalities. … I got zero problem with personalities.”

On how he can ‘Put Motown back on the map’

Campbell says that “it’s no secret what we want to do here.” He calls the Green Bay Packers “the standard of the division.”

He says that a big question he’s asking is, “How do we get to where they’re at?”

“I put my faith in people more than anything else. It’s a people business, and I believe that.”

He says that talent is overrated, “and I’m sorry to say that … but if you have the right people, and they have certain skillsets, and we use those to the best of their abilities, and we compliment each other in every area … I think you’re breeding success. That’s how I view it.”

On how important elite quarterbacking is

He says that you don’t need an elite quarterback to have success, but that your odds go way up when you have “one of those guys.”

He notes that the passing numbers rise every year, and if you look at the teams who’ve had success over the last few years, they’ve all had a reliable quarterback.

“If you’re lacking with one area, you better beef up another.”

On the anti-gay comments he made during his college days

Campbell says he got caught up in a raucous moment when he was young, and he has regretted it since the moment it happened.

“It’s out there, and all I can do is apologize for it.”

On how other franchises and players view the Lions and if that’s something he wants to change

He says that he wants people to know “when they walk into this city, when they walk into Ford Field, they’re not going to be able to hear. We’re going to be fast, we’re going to be violent.”

Campbell says that this mentality is something that builds. He says that even when his team comes up short, he wants them to know that if they see them a second time in the season, or in the playoffs, the Lions are going to be “a problem.”

On how important the play-calling hires are

He says that he’s not going to get hung up on styles or schemes, he’s a “nuts and bolts guy.” 

He says he doesn’t want a coordinator who’s going to throw the ball 60 times a game, but he doesn’t want to do the opposite of that either.

On what he would have done differently during the previous regime

Campbell says he doesn’t want to discuss that and that it’s “water under the bridge.” 

He says he doesn’t want to dodge the question, but he feels that he can’t answer that right now.

On how to change “Same Ol’ Lions”

Campbell says he’s a big “mind over matter person … I do believe you can will certain things to happen in that regard.”

Campbell says that when you’re around the right people, get people to buy into hope, it becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

“This is greater than one football team. I think the football team can start something great here.”

Campbell says he doesn’t want to sell anybody something they’ve heard a million times, “but I’m going to do everything in my power to win you guys over.”

He adds that he’s going to reinforce that they’re taking on the identity of the city, and that players will hear that every day.

On younger quarterbacks and the best position for them to enter the league

Campbell says that he’s open to anything right now, when asked about whether the Lions could be interested in drafting a quarterback with the No. 7 pick.

He says that they haven’t gotten to that point in the process yet and doesn’t want to comment on it.

On having a second opportunity to be a head coach

Campbell says that he felt like this was something he was born to do, and has a whole list of things that he wished he could have done better.

He says that when Payton recruited him to New Orleans, he did so with the intentions of showing him how to be a head coach and connecting some of the dots for him.

“I was a sponge,” Campbell says. “He allowed me to grow into the role that I’m about to take on right now.”

On what he learned from his experience on the 2008 Lions

Campbell says he got hurt in Week 1, got put on injured reserve, and was back in Texas for most of the season.

“Nobody likes that taste for sure,” he says, adding that there are a lot of lessons to be learned from losing.

On if there are any challenges to being a former player as a coach 

Campbell jokes about being criticized for having the Dolphins run the Oklahoma Drill when he was an interim there.

He says that he likes to put his player in compromising positions “in front of your peers” to see how they respond, so while he does understand the game has changed quite a bit, he thinks there is value in testing the players in practice.

On Matthew Stafford

Campbell calls “Matthew” a “stud,” but won’t go in on things much deeper than that.

On why he believes that he can help the roster reach its potential

Campbell is asked a comment he made about the Lions roster being closer to competing than people think.

“There’s some pieces here that I’m really fired up about,” Campbell says. He says there’s more on offense that fires him up than defense.

“There’s always an ability to hit on a good draft and sign (the right) free agents … and listen, some things can happen.”

On what he learned about establishing culture from Sean Payton

Campbell says “it starts with people. It starts with the right people.” The “right people” don’t have egos, are hard-working, “and want to be everything that you represent,” Campbell says.

He notes how long New Orleans’ run has been, and that “they always find a way to make it work.”

He said that players in New Orleans took on the identity of Drew Brees and Payton.

“There was never any of these closed-door conversations about somebody. … We were all moving in the same direction. That’s my vision for Brad and myself.”

He says he wants to galvanize the building, downtown, the city.

He adds that Payton did an “outstanding job” of handling confrontation in any coach and player. “I think that goes a long way.” 

He said that confrontation, when done in the right way, is healthy.

On his first time meeting Holmes

He reiterates they’ve been in contact on the phone “for awhile now.”

He says they were talking about player makeup and vision last night. Holmes said it was his job to give Campbell exactly what he needs: “Just give me the vision you’re looking for so I can go out and find it.”

Campbell says “vision is a big word for me.” He adds that every coach, player, and executive needs a vision, and that both he and Holmes are both “out-of-the-box thinkers.”

Campbell adds that Holmes has already voiced disagreement on a few things, and he loves that.

On leadership and getting players to give their all

Campbell says that he views leadership as a servant role. “You lead by being a servant, and you do things that guys gravitate to.”

He adds that it’s always been hard to call himself a leader, but that he’s a genuine guy, and when he feels something, he says something.

Campbell: “I want to know people and I want to understand what makes them tick, where they came from.”

He said today’s players have a lot of stress put on them with social media, fantasy football, etc.: “There are some things that get to them.”

He says that he just wants people to check their ego and pull in the same direction.

“When we all win, you’ll win individually.” 

On his philosophy of not asking players to do something he hasn’t done

“If you’re not careful, you’re asking guys to do things, that even though they’re phenomenally talented, it could be impossible.”

Campbell says that “we’re going to run a system that puts our best on your worst. That’s what we’re going to do.”

“If we can exploit a weakness, we’re going to do it.”

Campbell says that he has seen all the systems in the world, but at the end of the day, he’s going to put his guys in the best position to win.

On if he’s hired a staff yet

Campbell says he’s working through it right now, and has interviewed four coordinators on each side of the ball.

“As soon as I get out of here, I’m taking this jacket and this tie off,” and putting his Lions gear on. “We’re going to work.”

Campbell on Brad Holmes

Campbell says that he’s been in contact with Holmes “for awhile.” He adds that they have a ton of mutual contacts, and nobody has ever said a bad thing about him.

He says that he told Holmes he won’t make a hire without him approving it, even though he has the freedom to do so.

Campbell says that he’s not interested in simply stacking the roster, they want to have a legit vision for every player.

“You want to talk about a team guy? He’s in the same mold as we are. You want to change a culture about a team? It starts at the top.”

He says that Ford Hamp sold him on her own commitment 10 minutes into the interview.

Campbell adds that he wants full collaboration with Holmes, and to be challenged on his ideas. He said he doesn’t want people to always agree with him.

He says that he’s taken lumps as a head coach, during his time as an interim in Miami. He says that in that role, he wasn’t ready for a lot of the things he had to deal with. 

On Holmes: “We’ve seen success, we know what it looks like, and we’ve got the right people in place to get it done.”

He said that he can’t guarantee wins, but his job is to get the city back on his feet. 

“There’s been enough hard times here,” he says.

“I wanted to be here. This is a special place.”

Dan Campbell takes the stand

Campbell said that he’s excited and is going to have to contain himself, and that he’s nervous.

He said that he told his agent, “Whatever you have to do to get me in front of Sheila in Rod, please do.” He said that Detroit is a special community and place.

Campbell begins his press conference the way these things normally start, by thanking everybody who’s had a hand in his development.

He says that the “working environment was phenomenal” in New Orleans, and that’s what he wants to bring to Detroit. He said Sean Payton believes that compatibility is the most important quality of players and coaches.

“I’m very conscious of those things.”

He adds that nobody has ever believed in him more than Payton. He said that Payton’s philosophy was, “give me a player that I know who he’s going to be every day.” Campbell says that he’s looking for consistent players.

“I wanted this job, bad. Because I feel like I knew this community.”

“Here’s what I know. I know Detroit’s made up of good people … this place has been kicked, it’s been battered, it’s been bruised.”

He said that he could come up and give coach-speak, say that their going to win X amount of games, etc., but nobody wants to hear that.

He says that the Lions are going to take on the identity of the city.

Campbell said his team “is going to kick you in the teeth,” then goes into a 30-second, detailed diatribe about the rest of this hypothetical fight to the death.

In regards to his staff, he said that he’s scouring beyond the best coaches in the country.

“It’s not about the best 53, it’s about the right 53. And I feel that way about my staff.”

On the trend of NFL teams lacking diversity in their head coaching hires

Ford Hamp says that the league can do a better job “of creating a pipeline, teaching, working, developing diverse candidates.” 

Wood adds that his goal was to find the best two people for their organization, and they think they did that.

On the Calvin Johnson situation

Ford Hamp is asked about the former Lions receiver, saying that she hopes they can repair the relationship, but that she won’t speak about the money issue.

“We are 100-percent behind him for his Hall of Fame ballots and hope he gets it this time. He was a great, great player and was a terrific person,” and that she’d love to have him “in the fold.”

On what they learned from the coaching search of Matt Patricia

Wood says that they did very thorough background checks, referencing a question about the sexual assault allegations that Patricia faced shortly after being named coach of the Lions.

On how both GM and coaching candidate lists were built

Wood says they’ve been accumulating names and “doing external double-checking” with media, coaches, etc.

“We kept refining the list and re-stacking it,” Wood says. 

Ford Hamp says that there was a ton of research done on each candidate before they even met., and that all the work on the front-end paid off in the end.

On what was attractive about him being a former player of the Lions

Ford Hamp says “he just loves it, and he really, really wants to be here.” She adds that he understands what Lions fans have been through and is looking forward to building a winner.

On why they interviewed three total candidates from the Saints organization

Wood says that it was not intentional to target that org, they had just heard many good things about the individuals that they spoke with. He said that both New Orleans GM candidates said that Campbell was the first choice as their head coach.

On how they expect his staff to make up for Campbell’s perceived X’s and O’s weakness

Wood says Campbell listed the types of coaches he’d like to have on his staff. He adds that an executive with New Orleans said that people will “run to Detroit” to “be on Dan’s staff,” and that’s one of the most attractive parts of him as a head coach.

On the meshing of Holmes and Campbell

“They’re both incredibly smart and articulate in what they’re looking for from our team,” Ford Hamp says. She says it’s already “an awesome relationship” and they hardly even know each other.”

Wood adds that Holmes was in on the process toward the end, and he came to the same conclusion, which provides a sense of relief.

On how him being a former player helped him stand out in this process

Ford Hamp: “I think the players are going to just love him and respect him.” She adds that playing the game does make a difference, and that “players will respect what he’s saying, because he’s been there. And he’s done it.”

Wood chips in: “And the fact that he played here. And he wanted to be a Detroit Lion.”

Ford Hamp on how Campbell stood out

Ford Hamp said that Campbell sent them a book ahead of time regarding philosophy. She said that she read his statement on culture, and “he read our mind.”

Ford Hamp jokes that she thought someone gave him the answers that they wanted to hear ahead of time.

Lions president Rod Wood makes statement

Wood said that once Brad Holmes was named GM, they had him reach out to each of the candidates. He confirmed to the Lions front office that Campbell was the man.

Wood said that culture, self-awareness, teamwork were top priorities. He adds being a positive voice and being able to ride through the ups-and-downs of a season with “temperament” was also important.

“Dan’s a leader, and will be an excellent head coach.”

Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp takes the stand

Ford Hamp starts the press conference by noting Dan Campbell’s work as interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins and assistant with the New Orleans Saints.

“His commitment to driving our culture will be unwavering,” Ford Hamp says.

She adds that he has a vision, and is excited for him to share it. 

Dan Campbell’s introductory press conference

On Tuesday, the Detroit Lions introduced their new general manager. On Thursday, more introductions will be in order.

Dan Campbell will meet the media Thursday at 11 a.m., after he was officially named on Wednesday the Lions’ new head coach.

Campbell’s only NFL head-coaching experience was 12 games as the Miami Dolphins’ interim head coach in 2015, but he wowed the Lions’ front office with his energy and leadership qualities, according to owner Sheila Ford Hamp and president Rod Wood.

Follow along here for live updates from Detroit News contributor Nolan Bianchi.

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