Meet the guy who keeps Detroit Lions’ Dan Campbell on track with his in-game calls

Detroit Free Press

Dan Campbell gets a game management report from his director of football compliance, Jon Dykema, most Monday nights, and when the first-year Detroit Lions coach received this week’s report, he was a little taken aback by its contents.

“I’m like, ‘Jon, what the hell? This week you really got me, didn’t you?’” Campbell said Wednesday. “Where I’m like, three weeks ago you told me that was the right thing to do.”

Campbell outlined some of the steps he takes to quality-control his in-game decision making Wednesday, saying he relies on Dykema, one of the Lions’ longest-tenured football-side employees, to hold him accountable for the strategy he uses during games.

“I have a gentleman here who writes up everything, every decision that I made from fourth downs to time management to penalties,” Campbell said. “It’s good for me to see.”

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Campbell made several decisions that drew extra scrutiny in last week’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

One of the NFL’s most aggressive coaches when it comes to going for fourth-and-shorts, Campbell had the Lions line up to try and convert two such situations last week, though both plays were aborted by penalties.

He challenged two calls on the field, one of which was overturned. He signed off on three straight running plays on the Lions’ go-ahead field goal drive. And he used a timeout just before the Ravens’ converted a fourth-and-19 to set up their game-winning field goal.

Campbell said Dykema’s role is similar to the one Evan Rothstein held in previous seasons under Matt Patricia. Rothstein, now an analyst with the New England Patriots, filled in as defensive play caller for one game when COVID-19 ravaged the Lions’ coach staff last year.

Dykema, the Lions’ lead football counsel, worked closely with Rothstein while directing analytics initiatives and overseeing legal aspects the Lions’ football operation.

“He’s up in the booth and … he can hear what we’re saying,” Campbell said. “He doesn’t necessarily have input, per se, during the game, but to be able to write everything up and go through the flow of the game and then give me kind of a whole update on it, it helps me for next time. It helps me to, ‘Well, maybe we should have burned a little more time to try to get to the two-minute to where I’m not having to use the challenge flag.’ It goes under 2 minutes, now the challenge is automatic. You don’t burn a timeout. So I think it helps me.”

Campbell threw one challenge flag last week at the two-minute warning of the first half, when Kalif Raymond caught a third-and-2 pass that was ruled just short of a first down at the Lions’ 34-yard line. Replay officials upheld the call on the field.

The Lions lined up to go fourth-and-short on the next snap, but punted after Penei Sewell was called for a false start.

In the first quarter, the Lions lined up to attempt another fourth-and-1, but punted from the Baltimore 48 after back-to-back penalties, the second of which was an intentional delay-of-game call.

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Campbell said Dykema raised a question in his report this week about keeping the Lions offense on the field after the false start.

“He gives you the odds on things,” Campbell said. “There was one of them in there, ‘Hey, we jump offsides, maybe you go for it on fourth-and-5.’ And there’s an argument for that, but I just felt like we were in a field position battle, and there again, you’ve got to go with your gut sometimes. And I felt like, hey, we can pin these guys down here and defense is playing good and I went with it.”

As helpful as Dykema’s reports can be, Campbell said he uses them as guidelines only, and has no regrets about his decisions last week.

“I come out of this game and I don’t do anything differently, just from where the flow of the game went,” Campbell said. “That’s how I felt. I still think it was the right move.”

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. 

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