Lions’ Dan Campbell joins Pat McAfee Show to talk past mistakes, why this will be different

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
 
| The Detroit News

Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell, who has picked up the affectionate nickname MC/DC (Motor City Dan Campbell) from former punter turned podcaster Pat McAfee, joined McAfee’s podcast on Wednesday for a half-hour segment that covered a broad range of topics.

Here are the highlights from the appearance. 

► The first question went to the show’s video producer Evan Fox, a longtime Lions fan, who asked Campbell why his hire, along with new general manager Brad Holmes, will be different than the other regimes that have failed to bring success to the long-suffering franchise. 

Campbell quickly pointed to owner Sheila Ford Hamp as the reason fans should be optimistic. 

“If you want hope, she’s the one that’s bringing hope because this all started with her,” Campbell said. “She took over ownership in the summer and she knew exactly what she wanted. She wanted a collaborative effort, starting at the top, and ultimately, man, in the simplest terms, you would say she wanted us to work as a team up top — like a legitimate team up top, between her, Rod Wood, the president, myself, Brad Holmes. And man, let’s do this thing together, where everybody knows we’re all in the same boat, we’re all rowing the same way, knowing that those players that are downstairs, they will feed off of that and they will understand that and they’ll fall right in line. 

“One of things that always bothered me as an ex-player was, at times, you’re being preached to about being a team, and it’s all about being unselfish and working as one and no egos, and yet it’s not happening at the top,” Campbell continued. “Man, that’s the biggest killer of any team, when it’s not working at the top, and you’ve got ownership telling you what you’ve gotta do and you can’t do this, and you’ve got a president telling you can’t do this, you can’t spend this money. That, and having a GM and a head coach who are not on the same page. Well, this thing has started exactly where it should start to have success and it started with Sheila. She wants this to be teamwork, she wants us all working together. She set the tone. She made the hires and here we are, man. That’s the starting point.”

► Campbell was also asked about his quote from Tuesday’s video conference with local reporters, where he said “A true alpha knows when it’s time to concede for the betterment of the team.”

“I think being a good leader involves being a good listener,” Campbell told McAfee. “You’ve gotta be able to listen to other people’s opinions and you gotta take it for what it is. And you know what? You may not agree with it and it may not be the right answer, but you take it in anyway and you listen to it, and at the end of the day, you make your decision off that. You don’t always agree with them, and you’ll do things that are going to upset people because you’re making a decision they don’t agree with, but it’s my job.

“I always felt like if I was able to get into this seat, man, that was one of the most important things is, man, have trust in me, have faith in me that if you hire me I’m going to listen,” Campbell said. “I’m going to listen to everybody. I’m listening to Brad when you’re talking about personnel. I’m listening to Ray Agnew, I’m listening to John Dorsey, man. These guys, that’s what they do. Those are the things they really excel at, that’s their super power, man. For me, why would I not listen to them.”

Campbell also noted that he wasn’t strictly referring to himself as an alpha, but also Holmes, his coaching staff and the other people at the top of the front office. 

► Asked what mistakes he made and learned from during his interim stint in Miami, Campbell emphasized time management and understanding the need to delegate responsibilities. He acknowledged the latter will be easier in Detroit since he will be working with a staff he hired, as opposed to inherited. 

“(It) got hard for me, not to micromanage,” Campbell said. “You feel like you’re trying to do everything, or you want to do everything. You just can’t do it (all). It was different, because I had gotten hired as the interim and so you’re taking this over, where this time around, I’m able to hire my coaches. That’s why I made the hires I did, because these people, I can trust these guys. These are my hires and I know exactly who I’m hiring, I know what they’re capable of. I have all the confidence in the world that Anthony Lynn is going to put a good game plan together, he’s going to have the offense rolling. AG is going to have the defense rolling. Dave Fipp, special teams. And then I’ll just be able to go in and implement what I want and kinda add any little tweaks I want to do, but I don’t have to be involved in how do I really build this game plan and those things.”

Campbell shared a story from his time in Miami where he wanted to run the hurry-up offense at the end of the half, to prevent the opposing coach from running a specific defense he liked to utilize in those situation. Unfortunately, Campbell had failed to relay the plan to the rest of the coaching staff. That led to confusion and ultimately a turnover on downs in a game the Dolphins lost. That was a growing experience for the young coach. 

► On analytics, Campbell said they’re an important tool, but will only be a part of his in-game decision-making process. 

“That’s all fine that the numbers all say when to go for it (on fourth down), when to not go for it, when to go for two, but tell me what part of the game we’re in, how’s our defense playing, who is the quarterback on the other sideline, then let’s decide what we want to do,” Campbell said. “If everything is lined up properly, and everything looks good, and it’s even teams and you feel good about where you’re at, then yeah, you go by the numbers. I think there’s validity in that. But man, to just say you’re going to blindly lean on analytics, it makes no sense, not in this sport. It just doesn’t, man. There is a physical, a mental element to this game that’s different than any other. To me, it’s just a tool. It’s a tool to have in your toolbox if you need it.”

► Campbell is still prohibited, by league rules, from discussing the impending acquisition of quarterback Jared Goff. To work around the restriction, McAfee asked Campbell what he expected out of the starting quarterback position. 

“I would say you’re looking for a guy who’s a winner,” Campbell said. “You’re looking for a guy who’s competitive. I think that you’re looking for a guy who knows how to calm the storm, you know? When things aren’t going great, or not going your way, and it’s just you and other 10 in the huddle, he’s somebody that, man, can keep everybody just on an even-keel, keep ’em lined up, keep ’em focused, build them up with confidence man, and to let them know when he looks them in the eyes that this guy’s ready to go. That he’s going to do his job as long as I do my job. I think those are the big things, man.

“I’m not worried about a guy that, hey, we need this guy to go out there and throw it 50 times to win the game for us,” Campbell continued. “To me, that’s not fair to the quarterback. There’s very few that can do it in this league. And so, I mean, I think the guy needs to be tough. He doesn’t need to be a rah-rah tough, but there needs to be a quiet toughness about this guy.”

► Campbell has previously talked about the importance of New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton to his career. The biggest thing the Lions coach said he learned from his former boss was to not try to fit a square peg into a round hole. 

“Listen, let’s put guys in the best position to have success,” Campbell said. “Sean did it better than anybody else. Anybody that played the Saints would tell you, man, it was a nightmare to play us because there were so many personnel groups rolling in and out, man. It was nonstop rolling of personnel groups. But yet those guys we put out on the field, we asked them to do things they did very well, and very few times did we ask them to do things they weren’t as good at. And I thought that was one of the best things that Sean did.”

Additionally, Payton’s overall aggressiveness forced Campbell to rethink his own conservative coaching philosophies. 

“I would say until I got to Sean as a coach, I would tell you I was more conservative, more of a conservative type of thinker, much more traditional,” Campbell said. “You run the ball, you kind of, I don’t want to say milk the clock, but ball control and, man, it’s third down and you’re trying to get the first. It’s fourth-and-2 and we’re punting, and all those things, and you’re trying to be smart and you’re allowing the opponent to beat themselves.

“Look, that’s still part of who I am,” Campbell admitted. “But I’ll tell you this, man, your eyes get opened. Sean is on the other end of the spectrum. He was very aggressive. But man, if there is anything I did learn too from him, just from that side of it, is, look, if you want to throw some defenses off, there’s a time to be aggressive and use your special teams and use the offense to try to get these defenses on their heels. But I would tell you I’ve become a little bit more of an aggressive thinker just overall being with Sean.”

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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