Dan Campbell joked at his introductory news conference that he got the Detroit Lions head coaching job after he told his agent to make the team think he was Iowa State coach Matt Campbell.
If they did, Campbell would have landed a whopper of a deal.
According to CBS Sports, Matt Campbell turned down an 8-year, $68.5 million contract to join the Lions this winter, before the team hired Dan Campbell as coach.
The Lions’ interest in Matt Campbell was widely known, though the extent of their offer was never reported. In 2020, the Carolina Panthers lured Matt Rhule away from Baylor with a seven-year, $62.5 million deal.
Asked if the Lions offered their job to Matt Campbell at Dan Campbell’s news conference, Lions president Rod Wood declined comment.
“I’m not going to comment on any college coaches,” he said. “I think I’ve talked to a couple of you about that, out of respect for their current position and recruiting. I’m not going to say whether we interviewed a college coach or whether we didn’t or whether we extended an offer. I’ll just leave it at, no comment on any college coaches.”
Matt Campbell, who grew up in Massillon, Ohio, near Lions executive Chris Spielman’s home town of Canton — Spielman led the Lions coaching search and is believed to have spearheaded their interest in Campbell — posted a message on Twitter on Jan. 10 saying he was staying at Iowa State.
“So grateful for the commitment of so many to continue to want to build our program together,” he wrote. “Our foundation has been built on Loyalty and Faithfulness and it will continue to be our guiding light. Humbled and Grateful to continue to lead to be different.”
The Lions interviewed Dan Campbell the next day, and settled on hiring him as coach later that week.
“Just in regards to the head coach search, how I ended up here, one of things would be that I told my agent, Rick Smith, I said make sure that they think I’m Matt Campbell, so I think that’s how this has really worked out great for me,” Dan Campbell said. “So now that I’m in the seat, I am Dan Campbell. But I do know this, you can’t go wrong with a Campbell.”
Campbell has been well received in his four months on the job, showing humor and humility and while leading an organizational overhaul with new general manager Brad Holmes.
Matt Campbell is 70-43 in nine seasons as coach at Toledo and Iowa State. He led the Cyclones to a 9-3 record and Big 12 regular season championship last year.