It’s easy to love new Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell. His intensity and energy have brought excitement back to the Motor City after three seasons of mediocrity under Matt Patricia.
But it’s also easy to label coach Campbell as a bit of a cartoon character. From his knee-biting introductory press conference that went viral to wearing a racing cycle helmet during a presser after being named the grand marshal of the Detroit Grand Prix to calling himself an A-hole for cutting longtime Lions long snapper Don Muhlbach on his 40th birthday; the Pride’s new head coach is at the very least entertaining.
After what this locker room endured under Patricia’s tenure, it’s fair to wonder if the players are positively reacting to Campbell’s antics in the press, on the field, and behind closed doors. Apparently, the answer is a resounding yes.
Here’s how Kyle Meinke of MLive.com recently responded to a question about Campbell being portrayed as a caricature of a head coach and of the Lions players in the locker room are really buying in …
“The locker room buy-in is real, of that I’m certain. It’s remarkable to see where the energy is right now as compared to when the Lions wrapped up their first training camp under Matt Patricia in 2018. Back then, players were already sick of Patricia’s smartest-guy-in-the-room act … Players genuinely love playing for Dan Campbell, as well as his staff. They’re so positive and authentic, and players have really responded.”
It’s easy to see how Campbell’s energy, enthusiasm, and the fact that he’s a former player himself could connect and motivate Lions’ players right now, before a single snap has been taken in the regular season. But how will his stick play if the losses start piling up?
Everyone knows that the Lions are in the midst of a rebuild. And if Detroit can someone defy the low expectations many have for the team in 2021, Campbell and new general manager Brad Holmes will be given their flowers for setting the franchise back on a winning path. But can they keep the locker room if the Lions approach a losing streak similar to Detroit’s 0-16 season back in 2008?
Long-suffering Detroit Lions fans have seen this kind of act before. And many have opted to withhold their excitement about the new regime and direction of their team until it’s more than just talk and entertaining pressers but translates into actual wins. It appears that, for now, the players themselves are bought in. And that’s a good thing.